Grimes’ injury won’t doom the Falcons

September 11, 2012 

Depth is a wonderful thing for a football team. It’s a given that at some point during the season someone is going to get hurt, so the ability to provide a quality replacement is usually the difference in allowing a team to survive a major injury.

This will be the test for the Atlanta Falcons, who have lost cornerback Brent Grimes for the season with an Achilles’ injury.

For the past four months, since Atlanta acquired Asante Samuel from Philadelphia, we have heard about the system that would employ three solid cornerbacks. Samuel was to come in and join Grimes and Dunta Robinson and provide the Falcons with a different type of defense.

We might never see that, at least with these three, now that Grimes is hurt. The Falcons’ other big addition during the offseason, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, had developed a system that would allow Atlanta to have an improved pass defense, and at the same time allow three solid players who played the same position to co-exist.

Now the Falcons have to figure out what’s next, and they have to decide in a hurry. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are coming to play Monday, and they really don’t care what type of adversity the Falcons are facing. Manning showed Sunday night he still has some gas left in the tank.

But will Nolan stick with what they’ve practiced for all during the preseason, or will the Falcons go back to a more normal 4-3-4 setup?

Against the Chiefs, middle linebacker Akeem Dent saw only 11 snaps on defense. He’s the replacement for Curtis Lofton, who led the team in tackles in three of the past four seasons but was allowed to walk as a free agent.

The three-headed cornerback situation allowed Atlanta to play in more nickel packages, which also made Dent not as important to this defense as Lofton was to the previous scheme. Do the Falcons test Dent and go back to the more normal setup, or give another defensive back more responsibility?

It would help matters if Corey Peters was not also out. The defensive tackle is expected to be out five more weeks with a stress fracture in his foot. This Grimes injury might be easier to stomach if he were not the second starter to miss significant time.

Peria Jerry has been decent filling in for Peters, but having two starters out is still not what you want to deal with to start a season with such high expectations.

Here’s the challenge: Check out the quarterbacks the Falcons will face in the next eight games: Manning, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Carson Palmer, Mike Vick, Tony Romo and Drew Brees.

There’s no Matt Cassel in that bunch. Atlanta’s defense is still going to have to win ballgames.

Of course, having Samuel around to simply step in for Grimes is an asset. If the Falcons had not acquired Samuel, we’d be looking at Christopher Owens as the new starting cornerback. Sure, Owens might have to have a larger role as the nickel, but that’s different than being the full-time guy on the corner.

The potentially explosive Atlanta offense will help. Sure, Kansas City had a few starters missing on defense this past Sunday. But you had to be impressed with the machine that was the Atlanta offense. Matt Ryan had a rhythm with his receivers that made you think you were watching an elite offense.

That’s right, not just a great offense, but an elite offense.

So the Falcons might have to simply outscore some of these better opponents. They should be able to do that, even against teams that will be more of a challenge than Kansas City.

It would be better if the Grimes injury had not happened, but Atlanta is deep enough on defense and has enough firepower on offense to overcome the loss. This is part of what happens in football, and this team might be good enough to make this serious injury not so serious.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.

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