Countdon to training camp: A look at the cornerbacks

With the opening of Falcons training camp just a week away, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will take a look at some key positions every day from now through July 26th. Today: the cornerbacks.

The players report for training camp next Wednesday and take the field for the first practice at 10:40 a.m. the following day.

Key question

Can the trio of Samuel, Grimes and Robinson hold down the pass defense?

No one will argue with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff's claim that newly-acquired Asante Samuel is one of the most instinctive cornerbacks in the league.

However, he'll have to tackle much better in the Falcons defense in addition to playing the pass. Over the last three seasons, Samuel has missed a tackle for every 3.7 he attempted, according to That's tied with Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson for worst in the league.

During that span, Samuel has played 2,460 snaps, made 93 tackles and missed 37. Jackson played 1,454 snaps, made 98 tackles and missed 43.

Samuel, 31, has 45 career interceptions in nine seasons, fourth among active players. His 38 interceptions since 2006 lead the league.

With Samuel in place, the Falcons are hoping that Dunta Robinson is the answer to their nickel back situation. He played ocassionally against slot receivers when he was with the Texans.

Brent Grimes, who went to the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season, will play this season with the team's franchise tag. He's set to make $10.281 million in base salary.

Dominique Franks, who will get a shot at the punt returner spot, will provide depth. Christopher Owens, who shined on special teams last season, will likely battle to retain his roster spot.

The pass defense was ranked 2oth in the league in 2011 as the defense struggled on third downs. The Falcons finished the season ranked 28th in the league in third-down efficiency (93 of 211 for 44 percent).

Five goals for the cornerbacks

1. Help improve the third-down defense.

2. Play much better man-to-man coverage.

3. Make more impact plays.

4. Shut down the opponents' slot receivers.

5. Tackle much better in the open field.

Here's a look at the cornerbacks:

Brent Grimes: He struggled late last season with a knee injury that required surgery. Appeared healthy during the offseason.

Asante Samuel: Will add some much needed attitude to the defense.

Dunta Robinson: He appears re-energized by the move inside and will get a chance to play more man-to-man coverage.

Darrin Walls: He made the team as an undrafted free agent last season and appears to have a bright feature as a bigger cornerback.

Dominique Franks: He made four starts, had three passes defensed and two interceptions in 2011.

Christopher Owens: He played in 14 games and made one start last season.

Marty Markett: A former walk-on at South Carolina and sprinter on the track team.

Robert McClain: Played in 16 games with Carolina in 2010 and had 14 tackles. He was with Jacksonville for two games late last season, but did not see action.

Peyton Thompson: In four seasons at San Jose State, he had 186 tackles (125 solo), 10.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions, one sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 22 passes defensed.