We learned a lot in rookie mini-camp over the weekend. We found out that the Falcons are drooling over Malliciah Goodman's hands—creepy, I know—and that Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant are impressing early. We also know that most of these guys won't make it much further, unfortunately.
For seventh-round rookie safeties, a roster spot is far from a guarantee. Charles Mitchell showed well last year in limited snaps, and while beating out Shann Schillinger shouldn't be much of a problem, Zeke Motta and Kemal Ishmael are going to have to show talent and versatility to stick around. That's not an easy thing to do.
For their parts, Motta and Ishmael know they'll need to show they can do more than one thing well to hang on. Ishmael and Motta can both play safety, but they'll need to show special teams value to carve out early roles. It wouldn't hurt if Ishmael could play a little corner and Motta could take on some linebacker snaps. But it's going to be the ability to play well against the run and pass that's going to make or break their bids for roster spots.
“I like to think that I can do both," Motta said. "That’s not me being cocky, but being at Notre Dame we played a lot of teams that had me covering guys in the slot or coming down in the box. I feel confident that I’ll use my resources and learn as much as I can right now. I know that I’ll make some mistakes, but as long as I’m going 100 percent, they’ll see that and find a spot for me hopefully.”
We tend to think of versatility as positional, but it's not necessarily. Akeem Dent got a significant number of snaps last year for the Falcons despite being a (relatively) one-dimensional player, as a middle linebacker who is much better against the run. Osi Umenyiora is a pass rusher who isn't very good against the run, and he gets starter snaps. You can be incredibly good at one thing and thrive in the NFL, but as a backup, you need to be quality against both the run and the pass.
If Ishmael and Motta can show they have well-round skill sets, they ought to have no problem hanging around. Fingers crossed for both of them.
What do you think of their chances?