Grant, Hall appear ready to contribute to Falcons defense

Rookie defensive backs Richie Grant and Darren Hall plan to be ready if needed when the Falcons (5-6) face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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Neither played on defense when the Falcons faced the Bucs in Week 2 on Sept. 19. Grant did played 27 snaps on special teams.

It may have been a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment to send them out there against Brady in their second NFL game.

“Just a little bit,” Hall said of being in awe of Brady. “It’s kind of crazy because I was watching film thinking about that when he was drafted, I was barely being born 21 years ago. Just to see him to continue to have a great career as well, it’s crazy to think about going out there and playing against him. But it’s football. He’s an opponent. So we are going to go out there try to beat them for this victory.”

Grant played 32 snaps and Hall played a season-high 26 snaps in the 21-14 win over the Jacksonville on Sunday.

Grant, a safety, and Hall, a cornerback, have made steady progress.

“You would hope to build off experiences and improve week to week, which certainly they have,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said of Grant and Hall. “The challenge is now you got to do it another week, and that’s the hardest thing to do is just to sustain success in this business. You see it every Sunday. That’s the challenge. That’s certainly the challenge for us as a team and then for those players.”

Grant, who was drafted in the second round, has been learning the ropes from veterans Duron Harmon and Erik Harris. The Falcons are hoping to develop him into a starter alongside Jaylinn Hawkins in the future.

Hall, who was drafted in the fourth round, could take over at nickel back and possibly move out to right corner in the future.

“The staff has done a great job,” Smith said. “So, we’re going to continue to do that. It never stops. The development process never stops. ... We’ve got a good staff.”

Grant and Hall are starting to show up at the football.

Grant made three tackles, two tackles for loss and a special-teams tackle against the Jaguars. Hall also had three tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

Grant has remained positive while learning the scheme and earning playing time.

“I’ve got the motto of ‘one rep at a time, one day at a time,’” Grant said. “I’ve been sticking to it since I got here. You can see it slowly paying off. Starting to get more (playing time).”

Grant didn’t play any defensive snaps in four games and played six or less in two others. He played a season-high 58 against Miami. He played 33 in the blowout against Dallas on Nov. 14 and 24 against New England on Nov. 18.

“Doing better in practices and ultimately in the game, it’s showing up,” Grant said. “I’m translating it into the game. I’m making plays for the team.”

Grant had to learn his job first.

“That’s what it is, being the ultimate teammate,” Grant said. “Doing your job basically. When you are out there and when you’re called on, you can’t do nothing wrong when you’re doing your job. If everyone does their job, you’ll be victorious every week.”

Grant credited his patience and faith with helping him through the rough patches of his rookie season.

“I know that I’m putting in the work every day,” Grant said. “Eventually, the opportunity is going to come to showcase all of the hard work that I did. So, that faith in my abilities and my hard work translated to make the patience easier. It was easy for me to be patient.”

Others have noticed the progress that Grant has made.

“My teammates are telling me that I’m getting better, the coach is telling me that I’m getting better,” Grant said. “That’s just giving me confidence so that when I am called on, on Sundays, I can go out there and make plays.”

The Falcons have had a revolving door at nickel back since Isaiah Oliver was lost for the season to a knee injury in the loss to the Washington Football Team on Oct. 3.

If Hall can get a handle on things, there’s an opportunity for him to stay on the field.

“We are definitely pushing each other,” Grant said. “He’ll make a play, and I’ll be like, dang, I wish I would have made that play. It’s all love. At the end of the day, if somebody is making a play, we can get W’s.”

Left cornerback A.J. Terrell, who’s in his second season, has advice for the rookies.

“Just play free,” Terrell said. “Don’t think too much. You’ve prepared for the game, watched film. Just go out there and trust what you’ve got to do and play football. At the end of the day, it’s just football.”

Grant is looking forward to receiving some action against the Bucs.

“Week 2 I did play a lot of special teams and helped out in that facet of the game,” Grant said. “Probably be a lot more defense this time. Obviously, special teams, that’s not going anywhere, I don’t want it to go anywhere. I love special teams. It’s definitely a bigger role on defense. Whatever that role may be, I’m ready.”

Hall is pleased with his progress, too.

“Just showing them that they can trust me,” Hall said. “Just going out there and not making any mistakes or mental errors. Going out there and playing hard every single play on special teams when I get my reps. Going out there, even on the (scout) team and playing really hard against our offense. Going out there and playing hard every single day without taking any reps off so that they can ultimately trust me.”

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Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cowboys 43, Falcons 3

Patriots 25, Falcons 0

Falcons 21, Jaguars 14

Next four games

Tampa Bay at Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5

Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12

Falcons at San Francisco, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19

Detroit Lions at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26

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