With camp now in full swing, one of the more interesting battles so far has been between Chris Owens and Dominique Franks for the nickelback position. Both Owens and Franks have had very good camps, both had been getting a good number of reps at left cornerback while Grimes was away, and at this point it seems like a very even battle.
However, Coach Mike Smith's recent praise of Franks might give us a hint at who's winning the competition thus far:
"He [Franks] has a very good understanding of what we're trying to do, and he's asking the right types of questions, and that shows that he has confidence. He's very communicative... and I think he has really stepped up. He is competing, and I think that is probably going to be one of the two positions that is going to be most competitive in this training camp."
If you recall, I listed Franks as one of my sleeper picks a few weeks back. He's an incredibly athletic corner with high potential, but also has a few question marks as far as his football intelligence is concerned. However, if what coach Smith said is any indication, Franks has made great strides in learning the defense since his rookie year.
On Sunday coach Smith emphasized how important the nickel spot would be in 2011, noting that the Falcons actually came out in the nickel package more often than the base 4-3 defense last season. Clearly this is an important competition, and hopefully one that pushes both players to perform well. As Owens said, "the better man will win."