Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith walks the field during training camp on Friday, July 25, 2014. Brant Sanderlin
Photo: Brant Sanderlin
Photo: Brant Sanderlin

Four Falcons competing for nickel cornerback job

The increasingly pass-heavy NFL puts pressure on defenses to have a capable third cornerback to cover extra wide receivers and the Falcons added three players to compete with incumbent Robert McClain for the job.

The Falcons signed veteran free agents Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas and selected Purdue product Ricardo Allen in the fifth round of the draft. The team is looking for one of those players to emerge as another cover cornerback to complement starters Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford in the nickel alignment.

“As we stated many times, our five defensive back package, or what some people call ‘sub-defense,’ plays between 63 to 65 to 68 percent of the time,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “So, we’ve got to get that solidified. But those guys will have an opportunity to compete for that. Some of them have similar traits, but others have (different) strengths and weaknesses, so it will be interesting to watch that battle.”

McClain joined the Falcons in 2012, earned a roster spot with a strong camp and then ended up playing 613 snaps while grading highly in pass coverage. McClain played 584 snaps in 2013 but wasn’t as effective in coverage.

Wilson started all 48 games for the Redskins over the past three seasons but his play slipped in 2013.

Arenas has been a reserve for 51 of 63 games over four NFL seasons. He played his first three years with the Chiefs and last season with the Cardinals.

Allen started 48 games over four seasons at Purdue.

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