Kemal Ishmael had an fantastic game Thursday night. His pick six was a great moment. It backed up what the coaching staff and William Moore were saying about him all off-season - that he's a special talent. Admittedly he's got some work ahead of him, but that game changing moment had better keep Dwight Lowery on his toes.
"It was a very important play in the game," Smith said of Ishmael's return. "If you want to say which couple of plays, and they all come down to four or five plays (that can change a game), Kemal's interception and return for a touchdown was one ..."
Ishmael played 34 defensive snaps against the Buccaneers, only 5 less than Lowery. Through 3 games, Lowery has a 0.7 overall rating (-1.3 in coverage). Ishmael has a 2.1 overall rating, largely a product of his pick six Thursday night. Mind you Ishmael didn't play at all against the Bengals and he only played 14 defensive snaps against the Saints.
What's particularly interesting is his snap count against the Buccaneers. I'll be honest, it's probably not a huge indicator for a couple of reasons. First, the Falcons aren't taking chances with Lowery. He went down hard trying to intercept a ball in the 2nd half. It only looked like he had the air knocked out of him, but I'm thinking a good chunk of Ishmael's snaps came after that. Second, with a sizeable lead in place, why wouldn't the Falcons give Ishmael an extended look?
Going forward, Lowery is, of course, the starter. It's his job to lose. But it won't take much for Ishmael to be thrust into the starting lineup. If Lowery doesn't want to lose the job, he must improve in coverage. In the alternative, if Lowery can't stay healthy, we know there's a capable backup willing and able to step in.