Falcons secondary gets big boost from backups

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm •  Published: December 5, 2012
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Robert McClain was one of those offseason signings that hardly anyone notices.

A seventh-round draft pick, he had already been cut by two teams when he caught on with the Atlanta Falcons.

The 5-foot-9 cornerback turned out to be a steal.

McClain has been a huge part of the Falcons' injury plagued secondary, which lost star cornerback Brent Grimes in the very first game and is now dealing with Asante Samuel's ailing right shoulder.

"He looks like a first-round pick to me," Atlanta safety William Moore said Wednesday. "Dude can play some ball."

McClain has broken up eight passes, which is tied for second on the team behind Samuel, and has allowed the Falcons to carry on just fine with their plan at the beginning of the year — to have three cornerbacks on the field in most situations, teaming with Samuel (when healthy) and Dunta Robinson. The Falcons (11-1) have already clinched the NFC South championship and are in prime position to lock up home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

Atlanta travels to Carolina (3-9) on Sunday.

Back in January, when the Falcons signed McClain shortly after their first-round playoff loss to the Giants, Moore got a tip from secondary coach Tim Lewis:

Keep an eye on this guy.

"I could tell he's a heck of an athlete," Moore said. "Coach Lewis gave us the heads up before he came in. He said, 'We got us a steal right there.' From day one, Robert stepped in there and just took over. He's been lights out already, and I know for sure he's going to get better down the stretch."

McClain caught the eye of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan from the first day of training camp.

"He's kind of a quieter guy on the field," Ryan said. "But he makes plays. That's one thing that stuck out to everybody in training camp. When you went against him, he didn't back down from anybody. He's got this quiet confidence to him."

McClain made the team, but was inactive for the opener at Kansas City. That's when Grimes, perhaps the team's best cornerback, went down with an Achilles' injury.

"There's always going to be injuries on a team every year, but you don't expect it to be that early in the season," McClain said. "It was sad to see that happen. Grimes is a great player. I learned a lot just being around him during the offseason."



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