CB depth could allow Falcons to cut ties with Jalen Collins

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Something obviously was brewing with Jalen Collins when the Atlanta Falcons cornerback and Super Bowl starter found himself running with the third- and fourth-team defenses during training camp.

Collins played it off as no big deal. Then the NFL issued a statement Sunday confirming that Collins' demotion was related to a disciplinary matter: Collins has been suspended the first 10 games of the regular season without pay for a second violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

There was no need for the Falcons to give Collins many reps because others must be prepared to play behind starters Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. And now, there probably isn't a need for the Falcons to give Collins any game reps at all -- ever again.

"We are extremely disappointed that for the second straight season we are dealing with a suspension for Jalen. Such are the consequences when certain choices are made. Our decisions going forward will be based on what [coach] Dan [Quinn] and I feel is best for the team," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement.

What's "best for the team" is moving forward with C.J. Goodwin and Deji Olatoye as the backups to Trufant and Alford heading into the regular season -- if Goodwin and Olatoye continue to perform as they have during training camp -- and moving forward without Collins. Nobody wants to make a habit of admitting a mistake on a high draft pick, but the Falcons cut ties with 2012 second-round pick Peter Konz for poor performance. Cutting ties with Collins, a second-round pick in 2015 out of LSU, would make sense, considering the circumstances.

The Falcons already gave Collins a chance when they drafted him despite his background of failing multiple drug tests at LSU.

"If you scratch the surface of any human being, you're going to find mistakes," team owner Arthur Blank told ESPN regarding the decision to draft Collins. "So you accept that and you move on with him."

Then the Falcons gave Collins another chance after he committed the first violation of the policy on performance-enhancing substances, leading to a four-game suspension at the start of last season. And now Collins -- who played better last season after his rookie struggles and even started the Super Bowl in place of the injured Trufant (pectoral surgery) -- has violated the policy once again, bringing unwanted attention to a team focused on making another postseason run.

If Collins was an impact player, maybe the outlook would be different. But the Falcons are satisfied with the development of the ultra-athletic and speedy Goodwin, a converted wide receiver, as the third cornerback. And Olatoye, who has starting experience, possesses good instincts, though he might not be as athletic as Goodwin. Plus, the Falcons have even more depth at the position because nickelback Brian Poole and backup nickel Blidi Wreh-Wilson are capable of playing cornerback, and rookie Damontae Kazee, now at free safety, is accustomed to playing corner from his college days and no doubt is willing to make the move back, if asked.

The Falcons drafted Collins because they thought his length would match up well against taller receivers. He doesn't have the versatility to shift inside to a nickel role as so many other defensive backs on the roster can.

Further, Collins isn't the most physical player, although he has had his moments. Quinn implied last week that's the part of Collins' game he needs to improve the most.

And Collins hasn't been much of a special-teams contributor, either, although Quinn envisioned Collins growing into a role as a gunner.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Collins is slated to count $1,447,856 against the cap this season. Cutting him would save $344,098 against this year's cap.

He would be on the reserve/suspended list to start the season, which means he wouldn't count against the 53-man roster. If the Falcons decide to give Collins yet another chance, he'll be eligible to return to the roster Nov. 21. They would have to make a roster move to coincide with his return. By then, with six games left in the regular season, will Collins really be needed?

Stay tuned.