In the afterglow of a wonderful week one victory over the Chiefs, the Falcons have received some terrible news: starting CB Brent Grimes will miss the remainder of the season with a torn achilles.
Head coach Mike Smith announced on Monday morning that Grimes would be placed on injured reserve. With Grimes in a contract year, we still don't know how the injury will affect him in the long term.
But what about the short term? Can the Falcons deal with this right now?
My initial reaction involved the heavy use of expletives. Losing your top cornerback and probably your best defensive player not named Sean Weatherspoon is never an easy thing to recover from.
Since winning the starting job, Grimes has always been a huge cog in this team's secondary. He was that shutdown corner the Falcons hadn't seen since the likes of Deion Sanders (or maybe DeAngelo Hall) graced the field.
And, I mean, the Falcons defense didn't exactly look unstoppable either, at least in the first half of the Chiefs game.
But when I took a step back and thought about it, this is an injury the Falcons can survive. We already know that Asante Samuel, a more than capable cover corner, will take over for Grimes this week:
Nickelback will come down to Dominique Franks and Chris Owens. Asante Samuel slides into Grimes' position.— Jay Adams (@FalconsJAdams) September 10, 2012
The nickelback role will almost certainly go to Christopher Owens, assuming his health is no longer the issue it was in the preseason. The third-round pick out of San Jose state has had three years to mature as an NFL corner, and has flashed moments of brilliance among inconsistent play before.
At absolute worst, Owens disappoints and the Falcons either plug in Franks or trade for a veteran before the deadline. It's just a matter of how the defense plays in the coming weeks.
What is not so clear, however, is whether the Falcons will continue their reliance on the nickel package. Mike Nolan could be relying more on Akeem Dent and praying for some more pressure from the D-line in the coming weeks.
The real test should come this week against Denver. If the Falcons can hold Peyton Manning at bay without their top corner, spirits should stay high in Atlanta.