Unit-by-Unit analysis: Defensive backs

Robert Alford (23) celebrates with teammates in the locker room after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta. The Falcons defeated the Packers 44-21. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Robert Alford (23) celebrates with teammates in the locker room after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta. The Falcons defeated the Packers 44-21. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons reclaimed the NFC South title and became NFC champions for just the second time in franchise history.

The Falcons, calling themselves a Brotherhood, had a major breakthrough in Dan Quinn’s second season as head coach before collapsing in the Super Bowl LI in grand fashion against New England by blowing a 25-point lead.

The offense soared to new heights and the young and marauding defense made great strides over the course of the season.

We continue our unit-by-unit review of the 2016 team with the defensive backs:

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Who: Starters – LCB Desmond Trufant, RCB Robert Alford. FS Ricardo Allen (ERFA). SS – Keanu Neal. Backups – CBs Jalen Collins, Brian Poole, Deji Olatoye (ERFA), C.J. Goodwin and Blidi Wreh-Wilson (UFA). S – Dashon Goldson (UFA), *Kemal Ishmael (UFA) and Sharrod Neaseman.

Contract/free agent situation: The Falcons’ No. 1 offseason priority is to negotiate a contract extension with Trufant.  Allen and Olatoye are exclusive rights free agent.  Wilson, Goldson and Ishmael are set to become unrestricted free agents. Ishmael, a valuable reserve, wants to test the open market.

What they did in season: Collins stepped up after Trufant went down with a torn pectoral injury. Alford moved over the left cornerback and Collins took over the right side. Poole, an undrafted player, was a force at nickel back and blitzed well off the corner when called upon. Alford returned an interception for a touchdown. The hard-hitting Neal provided the defense with a physical presence and the ability to cover tight ends. Allen was much more comfortable at free safety during his second season as the starter. Ishmael was playing well before his injury. He could leave in free agency. Goldson was basically veteran insurance after Ishmael went down.

What they did in postseason:  Alford returned a Tom Brady pass 82-yards for a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Poole had two sacks against Green Bay, but was victimized in man-to-man coverage in the Super Bowl. Collins had a big forced fumble against the Packers.

Comment: The Falcons really like their top four cornerbacks in Trufant, Alford, Collins and Poole.  Neal is a winner at strong safety and they may try to upgrade at free safety with a faster player.

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

Monday: The Quarterbacks

Tuesday: The running backs and Wide receivers

Wednesday: The tight ends at 10 a.m. and offensive line at 2 p.m.

Thursday: The defensive line at 10 a.m. and linebackers at 2 p.m.

Friday:  The defensive backs at 10 a.m. and special teams at 2 p.m.

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