Think back to the first few weeks of the 2009 season - the games against the Dolphins, Panthers, Patriots, 49ers and Bears.
The Falcons had Erik Coleman and first time starter Thomas DeCoud at safety. Antoine Harris and William Moore were the backups on the roster. So what would the team have done if one of the starters got hurt or if Decoud faltered?
Moore was still banged up himself, considered on a day to day basis for practice and on the inactive list for games. He did eventually get in a couple of games strictly on special teams before tweaking the hamstring again. But even if he had been back to health, he had missed the entire preseason. There's no way the coaching staff would have wanted to put him on the field as our last line of defense.
Harris wouldn't have been a much better option. Yes, the coaching staff jokingly refers to him as a Swiss Army knife for his versatility. He was a solid contributor on special teams. But he would have been a major liability if the team had been forced to start him in the secondary.
The answer was that before his injury in the fourth quarter of week six, Brian Williams was our game day backup at safety. Yes, he was our starting cornerback, and he slid inside to cover the slot receiver in the nickel package. But if a starting safety had been hurt, he would have been the replacement. Brent Grimes would have taken over at cornerback, with Chevis Jackson stepping in as the nickel.
Williams is expected to be cleared to play medically. The question is whether he'll be able to pivot and make the sudden changes of direction needed to play the cornerback spot. The first year back from an ACL injury is usually not so hot. So while he adds depth at corner, his knee is still a red flag if he's forced to start. Dunta Robinson is the team's answer at cornerback, not Williams.
Still, the Falcons still have the issue of the #4 safety to address. He might be the perfect answer for that spot. Moore is a year behind in his development. With Williams on board, it won't be a problem if Moore needs a year to learn the defense in practice the same way Decoud did in 2008. If a starter gets hurt, Williams can be the one to step in. Like last year, he may be listed at cornerback, but he could easily be our de facto backup safety.
A side benefit: it would also allow the team to keep an extra cornerback, meaning that Tye Hill or Chris Houston might have a chance to stick on the roster. We've seen how they are both fish out of water in our zone system, but if new DB coach Tim Lewis can work hard with them in camp, they just might surprise us. Once upon a time they both had the talent to become top draft picks. The potential is there. If nothing else, one or both might at least become trade bait for a future draft pick.
So never mind the cornerback spot. The sweet thing about re-signing Williams is that it upgrades the backup safety position. If the Falcons are to make a run for a trophy this year, they need to have all depth and skill issues across the board nailed down. This could easily be the answer at safety.