The secondary promises to be a strength for the Falcons, and while there's a question mark or two at safety, expect these guys to be a big part of what makes this Atlanta defense effective in 2015.
This team is trying out a lot of new looks at safety, including a cornerback conversion and a former Panthers starting safety who hasn't had much in the way of playing time in the last two years. Yet it's the big hitters who have been around a while who are most likely to have a major impact this season, in my humble opinion.
Read on as we examine who's contending for starting jobs, who we expect to win those position battles and what kind of production we can expect from the Falcons' safeties.
Charles Godfrey: Used to be a productive cover safety for Carolina, when used effectively. Injuries and an ill-fated stint at cornerback doomed him in Carolina, but he'll return healthy in the hopes of stealing the free safety job. Godfrey has always been a quality athlete for the position and the kind of safety who can and will make aggressive plays on the ball. The big question mark is that health and his effectiveness at this stage of his career, seeing that he's played just 14 games in the last two years.
Kemal Ishmael: He'll be listed under both positions. Ishmael struggled mightily in deep coverage and lacks elite athleticism, but he's a big hitter, is terrific at tracking the ball in the air and may have some untapped upside. He's a better fit for a box-type safety than the rangy athletes Dan Quinn's scheme demands, but don't rule him out here.
Ricardo Allen: A converted cornerback, Allen was drafted in the fifth round a year ago and spent most of the season on the practice squad. He's got the type of athleticism Quinn's scheme demands, and like Ishmael and Godfrey he can be an aggressive in coverage and tackles well. I'm not sure Allen's going to win the starting job in 2015, but at first blush he checks all the boxes this team is looking for at the position and should be in the mix for snaps at the very least.
Other possibilities: Robert Alford, Dezmen Southward, Sean Baker, Therezie Robinson
William Moore: When healthy, Moore is one of the league's better strong safeties. He's excellent in run support, he hits hard and plays aggressively and remains a surprisingly effective cover safety, given his reputation as a quality box safety. His injury history is a cause for concern, but he's the obvious starting strong safety and one of this rebuilt defense's best players on paper.
Kemal Ishmael: See above. His skill set fits better at strong safety, sure, but Ishmael is likely to get plenty of looks as the team's third safety.
Akeem King: He's going to get a look at cornerback, in all likelihood, but the rangy King could be an interesting option at either safety spot down the line. He's a smooth, athletic player whose height and speed make him an intriguing project.
Other possibilities: Damian Parms, Terrell Floyd, Sean Baker
FS: Charles Godfrey
SS: William Moore
No surprises here, in my mind. Godfrey will serve as a capable stopgap so long as he's healthy, but you should expect Ishmael, Ricardo Allen and perhaps even Akeem King to mix in at the position as needed. No one's going to confuse Godfrey with Earl Thomas, but if he can handle deep cover duties and get his hand on the ball at occasion, he'll hold up okay. That'll be particularly true if the rest of the secondary is as good as it looks like it can be, and if the team can cobble together a pass rush.
Moore is a great player when healthy and a tremendous asset in a Kam Chanceller-esque role that sees him serve as an aggressive roamer who will be called upon to support the run defense and serve as the bit hitter and enforcer of this new-look defense. He may not be quite as physical as Chancellor, but Moore can do everything you need him to, and if healthy he's headed for a big season in Atlanta.
Look for Ishmael to serve as the third safety and a core special teamer, with Ricardo Allen also in the mix. If the Falcons carry five safeties, take a hard look at the undrafted free agents here. If one can shine in preseason, he'll probably beat out special teamer Sean Baker.
Moore: 80 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 10 pass deflections, 1 sack
Godfrey: 60 tackles, 2 interceptions, 6 pass deflections
Ishmael: 35 tackles, 1 interception, 5 pass deflections, 2 sacks
Allen: 15 tackles, 1 interception
How do you expect safety to shake out for the Falcons?