2015 Atlanta Falcons: Understanding Athletic Fits Needed for Dan Quinn's Defense

Scott Carasik@ScottCarasikContributor IIMay 20, 2015

Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn direct his team during an NFL football minicamp practice  Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Flowery Branch, Ga. The workout was Quinn's first as head coach. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

A new head coach. A new attitude. A new scheme. But how does the current personnel fit with Dan Quinn's scheme? How do the athletes match up in Atlanta compared to the ones that Quinn had in Seattle?

That's what most people will wonder. After the draft and free agency brought in specific schematic and athletic fits, it only makes sense to review the roster and see who the best fits are at each spot. In doing so, the idea is to have the right fit for each spot within the defense.

Quinn runs an off-set 4-3 defense, where one side is overloaded with linebackers and the other has an extra defensive lineman. He generally shades his linebackers to the strong side and his linemen to the weak side, called an "under" alignment. You can see examples in the pictures below of how these work:

Credit: Chris Brown, "The Essential Smart Football"

In order to compare players from the Seahawks and the Falcons, I'm going to use information from the combine for general athleticism numbers. From that data, I'll compute the speed, agility, explosion and athletic index metrics that I've been using to find athletes during draft classes.

In the link here, I went back to 1999 to test all of the data related to the scores. All of the scores are done as a speed by weight or explosion by weight situation. In breaking down each one of them, they are derived as follows:

Speed: product of weight and a constant divided by the product of 40-yard dash time, 10-yard split time, short shuttle time and three-cone time

Agility: product of weight and a constant divided by the product of 10-yard split time, short shuttle time and three-cone time

Explosion: product of weight and Vertical is divided by the product of the 10-yard split time and a constant, directly converts into horsepower

Explosion in Horsepower: explosion score divided by 264

Athletic Index: speed, agility and explosion scores adjusted by a weighted average

So when comparing these players, they will have differences in their measurables, but when it comes to their scores, they should be similar. If the Falcons players or the Seahawks players are just vastly superior on these metrics, it will be noted as well. 

Nose Tackle

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Brandon Mebane

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Paul Soliai and Grady Jarrett

In starting this one off with a linchpin position for the defense at nose tackle, the man who might be closest to what Quinn had in Seattle isn't with the team anymore. Corey Peters left the Falcons during the offseason, and he's the closest player to Brandon Mebane out there.

That's OK, though. The Falcons will have Paul Soliai and Grady Jarrett man the fort. Like Mebane, they are both able to take on double-teams effectively and should be able to affect defenses in the passing game by drawing double-teams.

Brandon Mebane vs. Grady Jarrett and Paul Soliai
NamePaul SoliaiBrandon MebaneGrady Jarrett
Height6'4"6'1 ⅛"6'0 ¾"
Weight344 lbs309 lbs304 lbs
Arms32 ⅜"
40-Yard Dash5.02 s5.19 s5.06 s
10-Yard Split1.69 s1.81 s1.69 s
Bench Reps2430
Short Shuttle4.53 s4.65 s4.56 s
3-Cone7.66 s7.94 s7.37 s
Vertical30 ½"24"31"
Speed Score146.07111.37132.23
Agility Score146.65115.60133.81
Explosion Score248.33163.89223.05
Explosion in HP0.940650.620790.84490
Athletic Index161.35117.43145.93
NFLDraftScout.com for measurables

Mebane is a bowling ball in that he's a shorter, stockier build on the inside, and where he wins comes from his quickness and strength, not his pure power. Jarrett has a similar build, but he is quicker and stronger than what Mebane was coming out of college.

Soliai, though, is a better athlete than both of them based on his sheer size and power. He's shown a good first step in Atlanta and is surprisingly quick off the ball. Atlanta has a pair of good options here who should rotate quite a bit to have the best pass-rushers and run defenders on the field at all time.

3-Technique Defensive Tackle

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Tony McDaniel and Alan Branch

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Ra'Shede Hageman

When looking at 3-technique defensive tackles who have been successful in Quinn's scheme, two things stand out. The first is the massive size. The second is the quickness that these guys played with. Alan Branch and Tony McDaniel are both tall players with long arms and weigh 300-plus pounds.

Ra'Shede Hageman is the same kind of player as those two are. However, Hageman is more athletic than either of them. As a former tight end, Hageman has shown flashes at defensive tackle during his rookie season with the Falcons in 2014.

Alan Branch and Tony McDaniel vs. Ra'Shede Hageman
NameAlan BranchRa'Shede HagemanTony McDaniel
Height6'5 ¾"6'5 ⅞"6'6 ⅞"
Weight324 lbs310 lbs300 lbs
Arms34 ¼"
Hands10 ¼"
40-Yard Dash5.07 s5.02 s
10-Yard Split1.75 s1.75 s
Bench Reps3332
Short Shuttle4.79 s4.50 s
3-Cone7.56 s7.87 s
Vertical27 ½"35 ½"
Speed Score126.05124.55
Agility Score127.82125.05
Explosion Score203.66251.54
Explosion in HP0.771430.95281
Athletic Index136.80148.19
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

In 2015, he should make even bigger strides. He's going to play his ideal role in a scheme that's tailored to give him a lot of one-on-one matchups with offensive guards. In 2014, he destroyed guards in those matchups as long as he was able to maintain his leverage.

Hageman went No. 37 overall in 2014 because of his overall potential to be a destroyer on the interior. With Paul Soliai next to him eating double-teams, it's possible that Hageman can be that havoc-wreaking, offense-crippling player the Falcons need him to be.

Rotational Defensive Tackle

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Jordan Hill

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Jonathan Babineaux and Grady Jarrett

One thing that the Seahawks liked to do was continually rotate defensive linemen to keep them fresh. This was especially true on the interior of the defensive line. Jordan Hill was a rotational player for the Seahawks and is a solid-enough athlete, but the Falcons have a pair of guys who will do better.

Jonathan Babineaux is a 10-year veteran for the Falcons who should fit in better as a rotational 3-technique defensive tackle in passing situations than he did as a 5-technique base defensive end in Mike Nolan's scheme in 2014.

Jordan Hill vs. Grady Jarrett and Jonathan Babineaux
NameGrady JarrettJordan HillJonathan Babineaux
Height6'0 ¾"6'1 ¼"6'2 ⅛"
Weight304 lbs303 lbs286 lbs
Arms32 ⅜"33 ½"
Hands10"10 ¼"
40-Yard Dash5.06 s5.23 s4.92 s
10-Yard Split1.69 s1.75 s1.71 s
Bench Reps302821
Short Shuttle4.56 s4.51 s4.57 s
3-Cone7.37 s7.49 s7.70 s
Vertical31"22 ½"29 ½"
Speed Score132.23122.51120.76
Agility Score133.81128.14118.82
Explosion Score223.05155.83197.36
Explosion in HP0.844900.590260.74756
Athletic Index145.93122.97130.51
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

Grady Jarrett is a good fit at either 1-technique or 3-technique with his athleticism and early in his career, should be a great rotational player for the Falcons. Once Soliai and Babineaux retire, the Falcons could wind up putting Jarrett as the starter next to Hageman.

Until then, his fresh legs as well as his athleticism should allow him to make an impact at either spot. The Falcons have a deep defensive tackle rotation and should be able to create some pass rush from the inside in 2015 under Quinn's scheme with starting-level athletes even as backups.

5-Technique End

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Red Bryant

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Adrian Clayborn and Tyson Jackson

When it comes to Quinn's scheme, he likes to work with a strong-side defensive end who can slide down inside in sub-packages at times. When it comes to the best options for that role in Atlanta, he will have to look at Tyson Jackson and free-agent signing Adrian Clayborn.

When he was in Seattle, the ideal fit for the role was Red Bryant. Bryant is a massive body who could set the edge on early downs and eat doubles on later ones. However, he wasn't quick enough to be a true pass-rushing threat on all three downs and didn't play the majority of the snaps.

Red Bryant vs. Adrian Clayborn and Tyson Jackson
NameRed BryantAdrian ClaybornTyson Jackson
Height6'4 ⅛"6'2 ⅝"6'4 ⅛"
Weight318 lbs281 lbs296 lbs
Arms32 ½"
Hands9 ¾"
40-Yard Dash4.90 s4.78 s5.00 s
10-Yard Split1.66 s1.61 s1.78 s
Bench Reps2020
Short Shuttle4.64 s4.13 s4.80 s
3-Cone7.75 s7.30 s7.64 s
Vertical28"33"28 ½"
Speed Score135.90151.39113.36
Agility Score133.18144.73113.36
Explosion Score214.55230.39189.57
Explosion in HP0.812710.872670.71808
Athletic Index144.69157.73124.24
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

Jackson isn't an ideal fit because he's less athletic than Bryant is and doesn't have the ability to create pressure with his pass-rushing skills. Ideally, Jackson is a rotational defensive tackle for the Falcons and rarely sees much time on the field.

On the other hand, Clayborn is a great athlete who can create an impact as a pass-rusher and set the edge effectively as a run-stuffer. His athletic prowess was a big reason why he went in the first round of the 2011 draft. If Clayborn wins the job, he could be a six-to seven-sack player with great run defense.

Move Defensive End/Defensive Tackle/Linebacker

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Michael Bennett

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Malliciah Goodman

A unique piece that Quinn was able to have when he was in Seattle was a defensive end who could play defensive tackle, outside linebacker or even inside linebacker at ease. He had a guy named Michael Bennett who was able to attack from anywhere and create pressure wherever he aligned.

Unfortunately, there isn't anyone with the same natural talent that Bennett has. There is someone with the same kind of athleticism and frame that he has, though. 2014 fourth-round pick Malliciah Goodman has a similar frame to Bennett, down to the long arms that help keep offensive players off of him.

Michael Bennett vs. Malliciah Goodman
NameMichael BennettMalliciah Goodman
Height6'3 ½"6'3 ⅝"
Weight274 lbs276 lbs
Arms36 ⅜"
40-Yard Dash5.13 s4.87 s
10-Yard Split1.78 s1.65 s
Bench Reps2426
Short Shuttle4.48 s
3-Cone7.10 s
Vertical36 ½"33"
Speed Score134.98
Agility Score131.47
Explosion Score224.74220.80
Explosion in HP0.851290.83636
Athletic Index145.51
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

Goodman is a bit quicker than Bennett, though. His short-area quickness is exceptional, and now that he can play at a lighter weight due to Quinn's focus on faster, more physical defense, the Falcons could have a surprisingly good player in Goodman under Quinn.

The only real spot that Bennett has a real advantage athletically, according to the values available, is in vertical jump. However, that's not as important, as Goodman was able to create a similar explosion score to the Seahawks defensive lineman when he was at the combine.

"Leo" Defensive End/Linebacker

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Cliff Avril

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Vic Beasley

The biggest linchpin position in Quinn's defense is the "Leo" defensive end/outside linebacker role. Essentially, it's a defensive end who will stand up around half the time like a blitzing 3-4 weak-side linebacker would. It requires someone who can bend the edge effectively.

When it comes to Seattle's best fit, their defense didn't really take off until Cliff Avril took over as the starting "Leo" from Chris Clemons. Avril is a great athlete who has one of the best first steps in the game as a weak-side defender. He also has the athleticism to set the edge effectively from a wide 9-technique.

Cliff Avril vs. Vic Beasley
NameCliff AvrilVic Beasley
Height6'2 ⅞"6'3"
Weight253 lbs246 lbs
Arms33 ¾"32 ½"
Hands8 ½"9 ⅜"
40-Yard Dash4.51 s4.53 s
10-Yard Split1.51 s1.59 s
Bench Reps2735
Short Shuttle4.31 s4.15 s
3-Cone6.90 s6.91 s
Vertical36 ½"41"
Speed Score156.15148.88
Agility Score140.85134.88
Explosion Score244.62253.74
Explosion in HP0.926600.96112
Athletic Index161.89160.00
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

Vic Beasley was drafted by the Falcons at No. 8 overall specifically because of his ridiculous athleticism. He was the quickest, fastest, strongest defensive end at the combine despite not being the biggest one there. He's a perfect scheme fit as well.

Beasley played a similar role in college too. His job was to create havoc and disruption in the backfield, and he compares favorably to Von Miller or Avril based on his college play. If the Falcons get the best out of Beasley, they should have a top pass-rusher in 2015 and beyond.

Strong-Side Linebacker

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Bruce Irvin

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Brooks Reed

On the strong side of Quinn's base formation, the outside linebacker aligns in a similar spot as to what a 3-4 outside linebacker would be in. This allows him to set the edge more efficiently while also having a good angle, should he be sent after the quarterback.

In Seattle, Bruce Irvin has been the best fit for the role for the Seahawks and is a great athlete. He's quick off the line, aggressive when attacking the ball and understands the angles he has to take to make an impact on each and every play.

Bruce Irvin vs. Brooks Reed
NameBruce IrvinBrooks Reed
Height6'3"6'2 ½"
Weight245 lbs263 lbs
Arms33 ⅜"32 ¼"
Hands9 ⅝"10"
40-Yard Dash4.50 s4.65 s
10-Yard Split1.58 s1.54 s
Bench Reps2330
Short Shuttle4.30 s4.28 s
3-Cone6.70 s7.11 s
Vertical33 ½"30 ½"
Speed Score149.51150.86
Agility Score134.56140.30
Explosion Score207.78208.35
Explosion in HP0.787060.78921
Athletic Index147.85150.28
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

That's a big reason why the Falcons went out and got Brooks Reed. He's similarly athletic to Irvin, but he's a bit bigger and stronger than Irvin. Reed could potentially fit at a "Leo" at times if the Falcons flipped their formation and went with the "over" alignment instead of the "under" alignment.

Reed's biggest difference from Irvin is that he's not as efficient at bending the edge. He does, however, have a proficiency at attacking with inside moves and could use that to his benefit—especially if Goodman and Clayborn can hold the edge well as strong-side ends.

Rotational Pass-Rusher

Seattle Seahawks Fit: O'Brien Schofield and Cassius Marsh

Atlanta Falcons Fit: O'Brien Schofield, Prince Shembo and Kroy Biermann

Dan Quinn has always enjoyed rotating in as many pass-rushers as he can. He likes to have a third guy in the rotation who is almost as good as the first and second guys in the rotation. He doesn't really have someone who's a ridiculous athletic specimen in Atlanta.

O'Brien Schofield followed Quinn to Atlanta, but he doesn't have any data available. However, Cassius Marsh—a project who was selected by Quinn—does have all of the data available with which to make a comparison. And it's only favorable for the Falcons.

Cassius Marsh vs. O'Brien Schofield, Prince Shembo and Kroy Biermann
NameCassius MarshKroy BiermannPrince ShemboO'Brien Schofield
Height6'4"6'2 ⅞"6'1 ⅜"6'2 ⅛"
Weight252 lbs246 lbs253 lbs221 lbs
Arms32 ¾"33 ⅛"
Hands9 ½"10 ½"
40-Yard Dash4.89 s4.75 s4.71 s
10-Yard Split1.66 s1.64 s1.59 s
Bench Reps142926
Short Shuttle4.25 s4.30 s4.31 s
3-Cone7.08 s6.83 s7.29 s
Vertical32"35"38 ½"
Speed Score128.96134.41134.40
Agility Score126.13127.69126.61
Explosion Score194.31210.00245.04
Explosion in HP0.736040.795450.92820
Athletic Index134.75141.24150.24
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

Marsh is a below-average athlete at best. To compare, Kroy Biermann was a better athlete at the combine and could probably still beat what Marsh did at the combine even after his Achilles tear in 2013. The Falcons have another talented athlete to work with as well.

Prince Shembo is a great athlete and could be an ideal pass-rushing fit in rotation for the Falcons. He's shown good bend around the edge, but his real strength comes from blitzing inside. His best role could be one where he plays a bit of strong-side linebacker and "Leo" in the rotation.

Weak-Side Linebacker

Seattle Seahawks Fit: K.J. Wright

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Justin Durant

When it comes to the weak-side linebacker role, athleticism is important, but instincts are more important. The Falcons went out and got Justin Durant from the Cowboys and locked him up for three years to make sure they had that veteran presence in the linebacking corps.

K.J. Wright from the Seahawks wasn't known as a great athlete coming out of college. He has great size and solid agility, but his biggest assets are his instincts and aggression. Wright plays above his athletic potential to be a solid all-around presence on the field.

K.J. Wright vs. Justin Durant
NameK.J. WrightJustin Durant
Height6'3 ⅜"6'0 ⅞"
Weight246 lbs230 lbs
Arms34 ⅞"
40-Yard Dash4.75 s4.60 s
10-Yard Split1.65 s1.60 s
Bench Reps2025
Short Shuttle4.46 s4.09 s
3-Cone7.26 s6.77 s
Speed Score121.17141.07
Agility Score115.11129.79
Explosion Score190.84207.00
Explosion in HP0.722870.78409
Athletic Index127.73143.32
NFLDraftScout for Measurables

Durant, on the other hand, was one of the more athletic players at his position coming out of college and has played weak-side linebacker in multiple 4-3 defenses. He's got the most experience playing in a Cover 2-style defense like what Lovie Smith runs in Tampa or Rod Marinelli runs in Dallas.

Durant's athleticism, instincts and overall talent make him one of the best linebackers to play in Atlanta in a long time. If he can stay healthy for the Falcons, Atlanta might have its best linebacking corps since the 2011 season that featured Sean Weatherspoon, Curtis Lofton and Stephen Nicholas in their best seasons.

Middle Linebacker

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Bobby Wagner

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Paul Worrilow

The middle linebacker Quinn had in Seattle was the athletic Bobby Wagner. Wagner can cover, play the run and blitz all equally effectively. However, he's not asked to play more than a short zone within the scheme in coverage and is protected there from trying to do too much.

His role in Seattle is exactly how Paul Worrilow should be used. Worrilow was worried about having more mobility before his pro day when he posted the following numbers, and he wound up looking like one of the more athletic linebackers out there.

Bobby Wagner vs. Paul Worrilow
NameBobby WagnerPaul Worrilow
Weight241 lbs238 lbs
Hands9 ½"
40-Yard Dash4.46 s4.59 s
10-Yard Split1.57 s1.57 s
Bench Reps2430
Short Shuttle4.28 s3.97 s
3-Cone7.10 s6.50 s
Vertical39 ½"34 ½"
Speed Score141.58159.98
Agility Score126.29146.86
Explosion Score242.54209.20
Explosion in HP0.918690.79241
Athletic Index151.86155.62
NFLDraftScout for Measurables

As you can see above, Worrilow's pro day workout was better than Wagner's combine workout outside of the 40-yard dash and vertical. Worrilow has the potential to be a good linebacker in the new system, and as a leader for the Falcons, he should be given the first crack.

Worrilow does have the athleticism to match what Wagner did within the scheme. If Worrilow can take that next step in his third year because of the new scheme, the Falcons could have one of the better defenses in the league due to their improved linebacker corps.

Depth Linebacker

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Kevin Pierre-Louis

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Joplo Bartu and Prince Shembo

Dan Quinn rarely used his depth linebackers unless the Seahawks had injuries. He also tended to feature his middle linebacker and weak-side linebacker in ideal roles for their skill sets. In Seattle, Dan Quinn didn't really have anyone super athletic outside of Kevin Pierre-Louis his last season there.

Pierre-Louis is just a freak athlete for a linebacker, though. He's one of the most athletic linebackers to come out of the draft in a long time and can fly around the field. Joplo Bartu and Prince Shembo aren't the same kind of athletes that Pierre-Louis is.

Kevin Pierre-Louis vs. Joplo Bartu and Prince Shembo
NameKevin Pierre-LouisJoplo BartuPrince Shembo
Height6'0 ½"6'1 ½"6'1 ⅜"
Weight232 lbs237 lbs253 lbs
Arms32 ¼"33 ⅛"
Hands10 ⅛"10 ½"
40-Yard Dash4.51 s4.85 s4.71 s
10-Yard Split1.53 s1.61 s1.59 s
Bench Reps282026
Short Shuttle4.02 s4.24 s4.31 s
3-Cone6.92 s6.94 s7.29 s
Vertical39"39 ½"38 ½"
Speed Score151.08128.93134.40
Agility Score136.27125.07126.61
Explosion Score236.55232.58245.04
Explosion in HP0.896020.881000.92820
Athletic Index156.59144.60150.24
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

However, they should be able to fit in well at the weak-side and middle linebacker spots in a pinch. Linebackers for the Quinn scheme tend to sit on the bench and play special teams when the starters are healthy and playing to their capabilities.

Atlanta should have some solid depth at linebacker with Bartu and Shembo. Shembo even has additional abilities that were outlined earlier as a rotational pass-rusher. Atlanta needed someone to put players where they win, and Bartu coming off the bench is where he wins.

Left Cornerback

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Richard Sherman

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Desmond Trufant

Richard Sherman is a great cornerback. He's arguably the best in the league behind just Darrelle Revis if he's even behind anyone. He relies on a combination of his tall, long frame, great short-area quickness and an aggressive personality on the field to be one of the best in the league.

Desmond Trufant is a great cornerback. He's shown during his first two seasons that he could be an all-time great if he continues on the same career path. He's been excellent in coverage in both off-man and press-man and has effectively manned his zones.

Richard Sherman vs. Desmond Trufant
NameRichard ShermanDesmond Trufant
Height6'2 ⅝"5'11 ⅝"
Weight195 lbs190 lbs
Arms32"31 ¼"
Hands9 ¾"8 ⅝"
40-Yard Dash4.54 s4.38 s
10-Yard Split1.56 s1.50 s
Bench Reps1616
Short Shuttle4.33 s3.85 s
3-Cone6.82 s6.67 s
Vertical38"37 ½"
Speed Score116.54140.77
Agility Score105.82123.31
Explosion Score190.00190.00
Explosion in HP0.719700.71970
Athletic Index123.03136.64
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

When comparing Trufant and Sherman, it's almost comparing apples and oranges in some respects. Sherman is that tall, long cornerback who can out-physical anyone. Trufant is a technical genius who can make plays on the ball. The big difference between the two is how Trufant will shadow the top receiver.

Under Quinn, that might change. Trufant is an ideal athletic fit at left cornerback in Quinn's scheme when comparing him to Sherman. He's got better long speed, better in short-area quickness and similar jumping ability. Trufant may not be as tall or long, but that's not as big of a deal when he is as good as he is.

Right Cornerback

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Byron Maxwell

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Jalen Collins and Robert Alford

The best right cornerback of the Quinn era in Seattle wasn't Brandon Browner, it was Byron Maxwell. He's a bit shorter than Browner was, but he has long arms and has high hip flexibility—something that will be a recurring theme with cornerbacks under Quinn.

Maxwell was also a physical player. The one thing that Maxwell didn't have was an elite athleticism or short-area quickness. Jalen Collins and Robert Alford both have that, and both have the long arms and frames needed to succeed within Quinn's scheme.

Byron Maxwell vs. Jalen Collins and Robert Alford
NameByron MaxwellJalen CollinsRobert Alford
Height6'0 ¼"6'1 ½"5'10 ⅛"
Weight202 lbs203 lbs188 lbs
Arms33 ½"32 ⅛"32"
Hands9 ½"9 ⅜"9 ½"
40-Yard Dash4.52 s4.48 s4.39 s
10-Yard Split1.58 s1.50 s1.53 s
Bench Reps2417
Short Shuttle4.49 s4.27 s4.23 s
3-Cone7.12 s6.77 s6.89 s
Speed Score110.60130.62120.05
Agility Score99.98117.04105.40
Explosion Score168.76194.88196.60
Explosion in HP0.639240.738180.74470
Athletic Index113.53132.57125.82
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

Alford is faster in a straight line than Collins is, but he's not as quick in the short areas. Collins is likely the better fit for the Falcons at right corner due to his size and short-area movement skills. He's more physical than Alford is despite Alford's tenacious nature too.

Collins fits almost the exact prototype of what Quinn wants in a cornerback based on what his past tendencies have shown. He's that taller, longer cornerback who fights for the ball and has good short-area quickness. However, Alford does fit despite being two inches shorter than what the prototype would be.

Nickel Cornerback

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Jeremy Lane

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Robert Alford and Jalen Collins

The Falcons need to make sure their nickel cornerback is just as good as their outside corners. While the taller, longer Collins fits the role at right cornerback better—at least in nickel packages—Alford looks to be a great fit for the nickel cornerback role.

Nickel corners tend to be a bit smaller, but they're a lot more agile than the outside cornerbacks are. Alford's great hip movement and lateral agility should allow him to make an impact in the slot covering some of the best receivers teams try to slide in there.

Jeremy Lane vs. Robert Alford and Jalen Collins
NameJeremy LaneRobert AlfordJalen Collins
Height6'0"5'10 ⅛"6'1 ½"
Weight190 lbs188 lbs203 lbs
Arms32"32 ⅛"
Hands9 ½"9 ⅜"
40-Yard Dash4.48 s4.39 s4.48 s
10-Yard Split1.58 s1.53 s1.50 s
Bench Reps1217
Short Shuttle4.14 s4.23 s4.27 s
3-Cone7.02 s6.89 s6.77 s
Speed Score115.45120.05130.62
Agility Score103.44105.40117.04
Explosion Score202.03196.60194.88
Explosion in HP0.765250.744700.73818
Athletic Index125.11125.82132.57
NFLDraftScout for Measurables

Collins could work out well in the nickel too. But it would only be against taller, stronger receivers who wind up in the slot. With guys like Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Mike Evans, Marques Colston and Vincent Jackson lining up there, the Falcons need to make sure they have someone who can handle size.

Jeremy Lane was Quinn's latest nickel, and he did a solid job against anyone and everyone. As an athlete, the Falcons already have a pair of players who are just better overall athletes than Lane is competing for the role. Alford and Collins are both solid players who can fit inside or out in Quinn's defense.

Cornerback/Safety Tasked with Tight End Coverage

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Brandon Browner

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Dezmen Southward

Brandon Browner was a starting cornerback for Quinn in Seattle, but he's not an ideal cornerback on the outside due to his poor hips. Without having Earl Thomas behind him, Browner would be relegated to more of an interior role where he was focused on covering the big tight ends.

Dezmen Southward is a perfect athletic fit for this role and even has more raw speed than Browner did as an outside cornerback and could challenge there. However, early on in his career with Quinn, expect Southward to be the big nickel safety/corner and a dime cornerback.

Brandon Browner vs. Desmond Southward
NameBrandon BrownerDesmond Southward
Height6'3 ½"6'0"
Weight221 lbs211 lbs
Arms30 ⅝"
40-Yard Dash4.68 s4.38 s
10-Yard Split1.67 s1.50 s
Bench Reps13
Short Shuttle4.24 s4.37 s
3-Cone7.20 s6.50 s
Vertical36 ½"42"
Speed Score115.78141.33
Agility Score108.37123.80
Explosion Score193.21236.32
Explosion in HP0.731850.89515
Athletic Index124.43149.33
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

The big reason for this is Southward has the size and physicality as a former safety to be an effective man-coverage player against the big tight ends in the league. Browner was used in this way against big tight ends in the red zone in Seattle and thrived.

Southward has all the right tools to be effective in this role. But his bigger usage will come on special teams. In the chart above, Southward destroys Browner in speed and agility numbers as well as hip control and range. If the Falcons can get him to play instinctually, he'll be more than just a dime corner.

Free Safety

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Earl Thomas

Atlanta Falcons Fit: Ricardo Allen, Charles Godfrey or Kemal Ishmael

One spot that is going to be extremely tough for the Falcons to emulate is free safety. Earl Thomas is a rangy athlete and has great instincts in coverage. He's a bit smaller than most safeties who are out there, and there was rumor that coach Quinn wanted a taller safety, according to ESPN's Vaughn McClure.

However, when it comes to the candidates who look like they are going to be tried out at safety, none of them have a taller, longer frame. They all have similar frames to Thomas. And while Charles Godfrey was once as fast in a straight-line, he has lost a good bit of his speed over the past couple of years.

Early Thomas vs. Ricardo Allen, Charles Godfrey and Kemal Ishmael
NameEarl ThomasRicardo AllenCharles GodfreyKemal Ishmael
Height5'10 ¼"5'9 ⅛"5'11 ¾"5'10 ¾"
Weight208 lbs187 lbs207 lbs201 lbs
Hands9 ⅜"9 ¼"
40-Yard Dash4.37 s4.51 s4.38 s4.63 s
10-Yard Split1.49 s1.59 s1.46 s1.53 s
Bench Reps21131421
Short Shuttle4.15 s4.40 s4.28 s
3-Cone6.90 s7.28 s6.75 s
Vertical32"37"37 ½"35 ½"
Speed Score113.84126.32122.77
Agility Score102.68110.66113.68
Explosion Score178.68174.06212.67186.55
Explosion in HP0.676840.659330.805570.70663
Athletic Index116.88133.86126.67
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

Ishmael doesn't have the same kind of range that Thomas has, but he does have excellent coverage instincts and can make plays on the ball. However, due to his average athleticism, Ishmael's highest ceiling is at strong safety and not free safety.

That leaves former cornerback Allen. Allen, like Thomas, played cornerback for most of his time in college and is an instinctual player. He's got a ton of range due to his athleticism and could wind up being a surprisingly good safety if he develops to his potential.

Strong Safety

Seattle Seahawks Fit: Kam Chancellor

Atlanta Falcons Fit: William Moore

The strong safety in Quinn's defense needs to be a bigger, stronger athletic specimen than most. Both Kam Chancellor and William Moore are linebacker-sized safeties who have free safety-level athleticism. The Falcons' safety is more agile than his Seattle counterpart, though.

Because of that, Moore has better range. He's as good of a tackler, too. The two positions that were key for the Quinn defense to work are at strong safety and "Leo" defensive end. They aren't the most noted or versatile spots, but they are the spots that have to make the biggest impacts.

Kam Chancellor vs. William Moore
NameKam ChancellorWilliam Moore
Height6'3 ¼"6'0"
Weight231 lbs221 lbs
Arms33"32 ¼"
Hands9 ½"9 ⅛"
40-Yard Dash4.62 s4.50 s
10-Yard Split1.60 s1.49 s
Bench Reps2216
Short Shuttle4.41 s4.26 s
3-Cone7.36 s6.84 s
Speed Score120.35141.40
Agility Score111.20127.26
Explosion Score184.80219.52
Explosion in HP0.700000.83150
Athletic Index124.61145.97
NFLDraftScout.com for Measurables

Moore has shown throughout his career that he's just as impactful as Chancellor is overall. He's a more impactful player in coverage, though, and with a weaker free safety than what the Seahawks have, the Falcons' version of Quinn's defense will have to adjust and give Moore additional responsibilities.

Instead of just being a robber safety most of the time the way Chancellor is used in Seattle, Moore provides a Cover 2 and Cover 4 component to his game that could help protect against a deficiency at free safety. If the free safety winds up overachieving, the Falcons can have Moore play a more versatile role.

Atlanta may have more natural athleticism than the Seahawks did under Quinn's tenure as defensive coordinator. Atlanta has advantages over Seattle athletically throughout the defense, and if the Falcons play up to the athletic potential they showed coming out of college, they could be exceptional on defense.

It will come down to coaching, though. Quinn has to show that he can take above-average athletes with solid instincts and turn them into a great defense. It's not all about collecting talent. It's not all about collecting athletes. It's about taking the athletes and putting them in situations where they win.

All stats used are from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats, ESPN.com, CFBStats or NFL.com. All combine and pro day info is courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac.

Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, college football, the NFL and the NFL draft. He's also the Featured Draft Analyst for Pro Football Spot.


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