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Thursday, August 25, 2011
Why Atlanta didn't keep Brian Williams

By Pat Yasinskas

This little bit of news about cornerback Brian Williams signing with the New York Giants doesn’t really impact the Atlanta Falcons. It just demonstrates why the Falcons are doing what they are at nickel back.

They’re letting young players Dominique Franks and Christopher Owens compete for the right to be the third cornerback behind Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes. That job very easily could have belonged to Williams, and there’s little doubt he would have been the safer choice.

Williams spent the past two seasons with the Falcons and played well as the third corner and even started at times. He came from Jacksonville, where Atlanta coach Mike Smith was an assistant before taking over the Falcons. In short, Williams would have been a comfortable fit for the Falcons.

But that never really was an option. The Falcons decided sometime between the end of last season and the start of the lockout that Williams wasn’t in their plans. The logic was simple. Williams is 32 and has absolutely no upside. You know what you’re getting with Williams. That’s an experienced guy, who isn’t going to make a lot of mistakes, but isn’t going to make many big plays.

The Falcons took all that into consideration and knew that Franks and Owens rarely would see the field if they brought Williams back. He was just good enough that any coaching staff would rather take the safe approach and play him over Franks and Owens.

The Falcons are letting Owens and Franks battle for the job at nickel back throughout the preseason and there have been moments where both have stepped up. Smith has yet to declare a winner in the competition and there might be some mistakes ahead.

But Owens and Franks both have upside and either one could turn out to be much better than Williams ever was. That’s why Williams was sitting out there until late August, when the Giants had a slew of injuries at cornerback and had to grasp for someone who probably won’t do anything special.