Falcons’ secondary rotation designed to create depth

SEATTLE – Falcons safety Richie Grant is pleased with how the team’s secondary is coming together.

“We are fighting, and we are flying around,” Grant said. “So, man, I love that.”

Grant has played 123 of 124 defensive snaps this season. But you needed a scorecard to keep up with the rotation in the Falcons’ secondary Sunday against the Rams.

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Players who barely played in the season opener, played a lot. Players who started against the Saints were rotated out of the lineup against the Rams.

Will this continue with the Falcons (0-2) face the Seahawks (1-1) at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Lumen Field?

“It really wasn’t a rotation,” Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “When they up 28-3, or whatever it was, I turned to coach (Jon) Hoke and said why don’t you put in Dean (Marlowe).”

Marlowe, a safety, played one snap against the Saints. He went in for starter Jaylinn Hawkins.

“It’s 28-3,” Pees said. “At some point in time you’re going to need all of these guys during the season. He’s played quite a bit, but he hasn’t played in our system as much. So, we just put him in. It had nothing to do with Hawk. Nothing to do with any of those guys other than it was 28-3, and I felt like let’s play the other guys.”

Safety Erik Harris, who played one snap against the Saints, opened the game Sunday at nickel back.

“There was a lot of stuff we were doing,” Pees said. “It was a little more complicated coverage. Again, it was not anything to do with Michael Ford. It had more to do with just Erik’s experience as a safety and as a defensive back that I thought could really help us.”

Also, cornerback Darren Hall, who played two snaps (3%) against the Saints, played 25 (40%) against the Rams and had the big forced fumble on Rams’ wide receiver Cooper Kupp during the furious rally.

“It’s not like there is a big drop-off in any of those guys,” Pees said. “I don’t think there is, so it really didn’t matter to me. It was not taking a guy out of the game for any reason. It was putting the other guys in to give them some playing time.”

Dee Alford opened at nickel back against the Saints and went from 21 plays (34%) in that game to 12 plays (19%) against the Rams.

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Harris, who was a starter last season, enjoyed the increased playing time.

“The rotation is good,” Harris said. “We’ve got a lot of pieces. We’ve got depth. It’s always good when you’ve got depth. Depth is always good when you have guys that can play well together.”

Hall also was in for Casey Hayward, who sustained a shoulder injury, but returned to the game.

“He did exactly what he does in practice,” Grant said of Hall. “If you look at early in the game, there was a curl route to the tight end in the boundary, and he tried to punch the ball out on the sideline. Come to the end of the game, it happened, the exact same thing, and the ball came out. He’s doing the exact same thing that he does in practice. It just showed up.”

It was noted that Hall also hustled to get the fumble recovery.

The coaches have been rotating the players in practice.

“They guys that came in, that’s the normal rotations anyways throughout the week, and we just implemented it a little against the Rams on Sunday,” Grant said.

The Falcons are hoping to put together a whole game against the Seahawks.

“Those flashes that you’re talking about, if we can just get more consistency with that, we’ll be able to win some games,” Grant said. “I’m confident in what we are doing.”

Grant is sensing a breakthrough for the Falcons and the secondary.

“That added pressure, it’s natural, but we know what we need to do,” Grant said. “We are putting in the work. We are coming together. We have to learn from the mistakes and move forward.”

The Seahawks have a talented receiving corps and plan to open the offense for quarterback Geno Smith.

“Geno is doing well,” Harris said. “He’s having a good year so far. He’s always been an athletic guy. He’s always had a strong arm. You just have to be disciplined.”

Playing behind rookie offensive tackles, Smith has been getting the ball out quickly and throwing short passes.

“They are just putting him in the position to kind of manage the game,” Harris said. “Allow him to take calculated risks.”

The Falcons respect Smith’s ability to throw deep.

“Geno has an arm,” Harris said. “You’ve got respect the whole field with this guy. Some quarterbacks, you can say, maybe he doesn’t have the arm, but he can throw it anywhere.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 NFL schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sun., Sept. 25 at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 2, Cleveland, 1 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 9, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 16 vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 23 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Sun., Oct. 30 vs. Carolina, 1 p.m.

Sun., Nov. 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Thur., Nov. 10 vs. at Carolina, 8:15 p.m.

Sun., Nov. 20 vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.

Sun., Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Sun., Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

BYE WEEK

Sun., Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Sat., Dec. 24, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Sun., Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Sun., Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.