The Atlanta Falcons entered free agency with thoughts of upgrading the nickelback position. Right now, they find themselves without a reliable or experienced third cornerback to fill such a role.
Last season, Robert McClain, Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas competed for time at the position. McClain signed with New England this offseason while Wilson and Arenas remain on the street after not being re-signed. The Falcons targeted Walter Thurmond from the New York Giants, but Thurmond ended up signing with Philadelphia.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn isn't overly concerned about nickelback situation or the cornerback spot as a whole. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are projected to be the corners on the outside with free safety Dezmen Southward expected to get an extensive look at corner, too.
"The good thing is, I like having corners that can play nickel but I don't want to necessarily have a guy that's just a nickel,'' Quinn said. "Of all the guys, I know Trufant can move down inside. Alford can move down inside. So those are two guys that, if we feature them, they can do some stuff inside for us.''
Alford, who is recovering from a season-ending broken wrist, seems like a more likely candidate to shift inside with Trufant established outside and the strong possibility of the speedy, lanky Southward also playing outside at corner. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Southward has been working on his press-coverage technique in preparation for the transition.
Second-year player Ricardo Allen, who was promoted from the practice squad at the end of last season, and newcomer Philip Adams are the other cornerbacks on the depth chart right now.
Quinn was asked if drafting a cornerback is a priority.
"Yes, absolutely,'' Quinn said. "Just the fact to have speed and length with guys who can play on the outside because there's some big receivers in the division, too. So we want a guy who can get his hands on them.''
It's still unclear where the Falcons will draft a corner, with pass-rusher their primary focus in the first round and the possibility of losing a second- or third-round pick as a result of the NFL's punishment for piping crowd noise into the Georgia Dome.
Some of the tall, athletic corners projected to go after the first round include LSU's Jalen Collins (4.48), Connecticut's Byron Jones, Stanford's Alex Carter, USC's Josh Shaw, Utah's Eric Rowe and Mississippi State's Justin Cox.