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Once you get past the first two levels of the defense, you're into the secondary. That's where we are now.
Standout Player: Brent Grimes
Biggest Strength: Forcing turnovers
Area to Improve: Cut down on explosive plays
Honorable Mention: William Moore
The biggest weakness for the Falcons in the 2009-10 season as a whole, not just for the defense, was its play against the pass. They routinely allowed big passing plays and put an emphasis on that category in the offseason with the signing of Dunta Robinson.
Things have not gotten much better, though. The defense is still at the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed per game and have allowed a number of big plays.
They are, however, tied for the league lead in interceptions with 11, with seven of them coming from members of the secondary.
It's largely a young unit, and with the team in a bye week where they can work on improving their game, it will be about what this unit does going forward, not what they've done so far.
The most improved player in the secondary, if not on the defense as a whole, is Brent Grimes.
It was tough a year ago, seeing Grimes routinely in position in pass coverage, but not making plays on the ball. This year, he's making those plays, and has also shown that he's not afraid to get dirty. His 37 tackles are second on the team.
He also has an interception and six passes defensed.
KC Joyner of ESPN.com wrote an article (found here) in which he names Grimes as a sleeper for NFC Defensive Player of the Year. The third year pro is allowing just 4.6 yards-per-attempt on passes thrown in his direction, according to Joyner.
The benchmark for great cornerback play is generally 7.0 yards-per-attempt.
Moore, who battled injuries last year, was inserted into the starting lineup when Erik Coleman went down with an injury and has been solid with three interceptions, although he missed an open-field tackle against Cincinnati that led to a long touchdown.
If the secondary can put an end to these big passing plays, the defense could move up into an elite level.
Overall Secondary Grade: B