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DaKCMan AP
07-14-2010, 07:08 AM
Line of Scrimmage: NFL GameChangers '10: Defensive Backs

By Tony Moss, Sports Network
The Sports Network

When presented with the phrase "Atlanta Falcons cornerback" in one of those word-association tests, the first term that might spring to mind is "brash".

The two biggest stars to play that position in the organization's history were the outrageous Deion Sanders, who earned three Pro Bowl citations as a Falcon in the early stages of his career, and DeAngelo Hall, who made some big plays for the team during the Jim Mora era, even if his on-field motor never quite matched the horsepower generated by his mouth.

Heck, even '98 Falcons Pro Bowler Ray Buchanan was a rap-album-making sound- byte machine who got into a legendary war of words with the Broncos' Shannon Sharpe during the ramp-up to Atlanta's first and only Super Bowl to date.

The Falcons' newest standout at the position, offseason free agent pickup Dunta Robinson, is not likely to generate the Q rating of any of the figures mentioned above. The less flashy Robinson has heretofore spent his NFL career making statements on the field, as opposed to the various mediums preferred by his Atlanta predecessors.

The 2004 first-round pick of the Houston Texans has plenty of confidence, but prefers to display it with his helmet on.

"You will see [in] the way he carries himself an element of swagger we definitely are looking for on this football team, to help this young defense and to help this young secondary," Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said soon after the team signed Robinson in March. "We are really excited about having Dunta help this team move in that direction."

Robinson was a steadying force for a Houston defense that went through myriad changes - from both a scheme and personnel standpoint - during his six years there. He had six interceptions as a rookie in 2004, and soon after found opposing quarterbacks less than willing to throw in his direction. Still, the Texans refused to give the South Carolina product the type of contract he wanted, with the effects of a serious 2007 knee injury perhaps dissuading them from making a long-term deal. Robinson was given the franchise tag in 2009, much to his chagrin, and widened the gulf between himself and the organization by publicly accusing general manager Rick Smith of reneging on a promise not to tag him. (Robinson also famously wrote, "Pay me, Rick" on his game cleats).

Houston chose not to franchise Robinson again in 2010, giving the Falcons the opportunity to swoop in and sign the Athens, GA native. Robinson, the only notable veteran addition the Falcons made during the offseason, was handed a six-year, $57 million contract including $25.5 million guaranteed.

"It's a great situation for me," Robinson said upon his introduction to the team. "I feel wanted here and anytime you feel wanted you're willing to go out there and lay it on the line every Sunday. Facing great receivers brings out the best in me so it's definitely going to be fun."

In keeping with his enhanced financial profile, Robinson is being counted on for leadership and consistency on a secondary that went begging in both departments during much of a disappointing 2009 campaign. Atlanta finished 28th in the NFL against the pass last season, with a smallish group of corners getting out-muscled as often as they were beaten deep.

Young players like the scrappy Brent Grimes and then-rookie Christopher Owens were counted on perhaps too heavily, and would-be lynch pins Chris Houston (since traded to the Lions) and Brian Williams were disappointing before being lost to season-ending injuries.

Though Grimes, Owens, and Williams are all back, there is little question that the tone of this cornerback group will be largely set by the newcomer Robinson, who has drawn raves from head coach Mike Smith for his physical nature.

"I think the thing Dunta has is a complete game," Smith said in March. "We talked about his ability to tackle, and that is very important. I think tackling is a lost art in this league ... that's the thing that stands out the most in regards to his skill set."

Below, as the sixth installment of our eight-part "GameChangers" series, we look at five incoming defensive backs will enter their first year in a new uniform as central figures in their team's 2010 development:

5. Joe Haden, CB, Browns (rookie, Florida) - When the Browns dealt for NFL veteran Sheldon Brown in the days preceding the 2010 Draft, it was speculated that Cleveland - which had been linked to Haden for weeks at the No. 7 slot - might be done at the cornerback position. After all, the solid Eric Wright was still in Cleveland as a potential bookend to Brown. But Mike Holmgren pulled the trigger on the physical Haden anyway, quickly transforming the Cleveland secondary into one that should give opposing quarterbacks pause. A weak 4.57 40-time at the scouting combine may have scared some off of Haden (he rebounded for a 4.39 at Florida's pro day), but he has tremendous football instincts and sufficient game speed to be a high-quality NFL corner for the next decade. The Browns will ease Haden in slowly, perhaps using Haden mainly in sub-packages early on, but it won't be long before he's an every-down corner in C-Town.

4. Antrel Rolle, S, Giants (free agent, from Cardinals) - Though Robinson's contract raised some eyebrows, in that a player who had never reached a Pro Bowl was made the second-highest-paid corner in the game, it was the five- year, $37 million deal that the Giants gave Rolle that generated even greater astonishment. Rolle was viewed by many as the third-best defensive back on his own team in Arizona, behind Adrian Wilson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and the Cardinals actually released Rolle, who never quite lived up to his top-10 promise in five years with the team, in March. Still, there was no question that the Giants needed secondary help, and the only way they were going to get a potential impact player was to reach for one and cross their fingers that it worked out. There's a lot at stake in that regard, as Kenny Phillips is attempting to come back from a career-threatening knee injury and third-round safety Chad Jones' own career could be over after a serious car accident. If Rolle doesn't live up to his contract through strong play, it's going to be bombs away on the Giants secondary.

3. Earl Thomas, S, Seahawks (rookie, Texas) - The Seahawks may have carved out the future of their organization in a nine-pick span of the April draft, selecting Thomas moments after tabbing Russell Okung to be their starting left tackle of the next decade and perhaps beyond. Seattle's defense has long lacked consistent secondary playmakers, a situation the 5-10, 195-pound Thomas - who had 32 passes defended in 14 games with Texas a season ago - should help alleviate almost immediately. What new head coach Pete Carroll and the Hawks liked best about Thomas was his versatility, as he is capable of playing a traditional center-field, free safety role and can also cover receivers capably when needed. Look for the NFL's third-worst pass defense of a year ago to take an immediate step forward with Thomas as a center piece of the secondary.

2. Dunta Robinson, CB, Falcons (free agent, from Texans) - Worried about whether Robinson will be able to hold up against the likes of NFC South stalwart receivers like Marques Colston and Steve Smith? Robinson isn't. "I've gone against Marvin Harrison twice a year for five or six years. Reggie Wayne, I've seen him twice a year every year. Though there are great receivers in this division, I'm used to going against great receivers. I guarded every team's best receiver last season. I've had my experience. I'm actually looking forward to playing against those guys, lining up and getting in their face and just going to battle." Robinson's first inter-division battle will come on Sept. 26 against Colston and the defending Super Bowl Saints, a game that should offer plenty of indication whether Atlanta has narrowed the gap in the NFC South.

1. Eric Berry, S, Chiefs (rookie, Tennessee) - Logic dictated that the Chiefs were going to draft Berry No. 5 overall when they were on the clock this past April, but since this was the same team that shocked the world by selecting Tyson Jackson third the year before, and there were audible whispers that GM Scott Pioli wasn't fond of taking safeties early, all bets were off. Ultimately, though, Berry was such a can't-miss prospect that Pioli resisted the temptation to over-think things. Like Thomas, Berry has the versatility to line up anywhere in the secondary, though he projects long-term as a playmaking safety in the Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu mold. Like Polamalu, the 5-11, 200-pound Berry is a fearsome hitter. Like Reed, Berry is a menace when he gets the ball in his hands, and could help out on returns in addition to his work on defense. Wherever new coordinator Romeo Crennel chooses to line him up, Berry is already the face of a Kansas City unit that will be looking to far surpass its 2009 rank of 30th in NFL total defense.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/07/13/1727964_p3/line-of-scrimmage-nfl-gamechangers.html#ixzz0teqX5bvA

big nasty kcnut
07-14-2010, 07:29 AM
Oh fuck yeah when football season.

Pasta Giant Meatball
07-14-2010, 07:30 AM
FlowerBerry is going to be nothing short of awesome.

WhitiE
07-14-2010, 07:33 AM
FlowerBerry is going to be nothing short of awesome.

Awesome.

Rooster
07-14-2010, 08:04 AM
Berry is KC's new Cherry..

milkman
07-14-2010, 08:33 AM
FlowerBerry is going to be nothing short of awesome.

Berry was the guy I wanted with our pick.

He was too much of a talent to pass on.

However, his biggest impact this year will be in getting to receivers and making stops that our safeties were unable to make due to lack of speed or simply taking bad angles.

I'm hoping whoever we line up alongside of him at (I'm assuming at free safety at this point) can do the same.

Berry has the potential to be a game changing playmaker, but he can't realize that potential until we fix the front 7 and get a pass rush.

Ralphy Boy
07-14-2010, 08:51 AM
I'm hoping whoever we line up alongside of him at (I'm assuming at free safety at this point) can do the same.



I won't be shocked if they bring back Mike Brown once they get into training camp.

Shag
07-14-2010, 08:54 AM
I won't be shocked if they bring back Mike Brown once they get into training camp.

Shut yo mouth! :cuss:

rockymtnchief
07-14-2010, 08:55 AM
I won't be shocked if they bring back Mike Brown once they get into training camp.

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR...They better not! That guy was dirt last year.:cuss:

milkman
07-14-2010, 09:34 AM
I won't be shocked if they bring back Mike Brown once they get into training camp.

Yeah.

That won't happen.

talastan
07-14-2010, 09:43 AM
GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR...They better not! That guy was BURIED IN dirt last year.:cuss:

FYP

DaKCMan AP
07-14-2010, 09:47 AM
I'd prefer to see Kendrick Lewis, DaJuan Morgan, Donald Washington, or Reshard Langford (if he continues to impress) starting opposite Berry. If they suck, fine, we'll get someone new next year. We already know about Jon McGraw and Jarrad Page.

Garcia Bronco
07-14-2010, 09:50 AM
FlowerBerry is going to be nothing short of awesome.

Don't combine their names. It's gay. From a psotion perspective, Berry won't hold a candle to Flowers.

Otter
07-14-2010, 10:07 AM
and could help out on returns in addition to his work on defense

I really don't want to see Berry returning kicks just because of the injury potential. If he's half as valuable in the secondary as he's being labeled that's not a man that should be returning kicks.

Mike Brown
07-14-2010, 10:19 AM
I won't be shocked if they bring back Mike Brown once they get into training camp.


Hells yeah.

DaKCMan AP
07-14-2010, 10:25 AM
I really don't want to see Berry returning kicks just because of the injury potential. If he's half as valuable in the secondary as he's being labeled that's not a man that should be returning kicks.

Plus, that's what Javier Arenas is for.

Sure, Berry and McCluster have return potential, but Arenas is not as valuable as Berry on D and McCluster on O, and is every bit as good of a returner.