Atlanta Falcons vs. Miami Dolphins
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Georgia Dome
On TV: CBS
FLOWERY BRANCH — Ten days after getting traded to the Atlanta Falcons, cornerback Tye Hill finally has an official name plate over his locker.
“Check it out,” Hill said Friday. “Just another sign that I’m making myself a home here in Atlanta. Everyone on the team has embraced me. I can’t ask to be in a better place.”
Now that Hill has a name plate, it may take the 15th overall pick in the 2006 draft a little more time to get into a regular season game.
Hill could be inactive for Atlanta’s opener Sunday against Miami.
Coach Mike Smith and his staff took a similarly cautious approach last year after Atlanta traded for cornerback Domonique Foxworth a few days before the Week 1 win over Detroit.
Foxworth, who eventually replaced Brent Grimes as the left-side starter and signed a lucrative contract with Baltimore last winter, benefited from the extra time by learning the nuances of zone coverage the Falcons require from their cornerbacks.'
Hill’s not concerned; he’s learned to temper expectations. Following a solid rookie year in 2006 with the St. Louis Rams, Hill missed a combined 20 games over the last two seasons.
“I’m catching up to speed,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to take as long as I anticipated. The biggest thing is picking up the terminology.”
Understanding the language of calls from coordinator Brian VanGorder took Foxworth an extra week and could do the same with Hill, but that’s not the case with Brian Williams.
The Falcons signed Williams last Sunday after his release from Jacksonville. In 2006 and ‘07, Williams played under Smith, the Jaguars’ former coordinator, and Atlanta secondary coach Alvin Reynolds, who held the same role at the time with Jacksonville.
Williams’ learning curve is much shorter, and the Falcons are planning for him to play several snaps against the Dolphins.
“Each day we’ll find a new topic we’ve got to go over with respect to how we call it, what our language and terminology is and the technique involved,” VanGorder said. “It’s a work in progress, but he’ll have involvement in the game.”
The recent additions of Williams and Hill took some pressure off the cornerback position, which has been a concern for the Falcons throughout the preseason. Grimes and right-side starter Chris Houston were routinely beaten in coverage, and the results were disturbingly similar for reserves Chevis Jackson and rookie Chris Owens.
“Every team goes into the first game with unknowns because it’s a new season and a new team,” Smith said. “I’m confident, and I know our coaches are confident, in where we’re at, and we’ll get a chance on Sunday to go out and perform.”
Free safety Erik Coleman has learned to trust Atlanta’s front office and scouting department enough to know he’s not going to lead a secondary that’s empty-handed.
“They did a great job last year when no one thought we’d be much of a team, and they put together the key elements,” Coleman said. “We’ve been working hard and we’re starting to jell and we have to continue progressing and keep getting better.”
Williams, a longtime starter with Jacksonville and Minnesota, also has been fortunate to avoid some of the lasting injuries that sidelined Hill the previous two seasons.
But for the Falcons, his knowledge of VanGorder’s schemes made the decision to sign him easy.
“He has a much different vantage point than (Hill or Foxworth) did,” Williams said. “He’s familiar with our system.”