As Matthew Chambers noted the other day, Sharrod Neasman is the obvious choice for backup strong safety. The Falcons will likely slot Damontae Kazee behind Ricardo Allen at free safety, for starters, and there’s no one else on the team currently who looks capable of stealing Neasman’s job away. But it’s worth talking a little bit more about why Neasman is the presumptive favorite, because Dan Quinn really dialed up some praise for him in remarks earlier today.
Here’s a worthwhile passages from D. Orlando Ledbetter’s transcript today, which is worth reading in full.
This spring we really ironed it out where we found his role covering tight ends, playing in the box, playing physical and the role on teams. Could he start on punt and kickoff returns? We want to take a strong look at that. Going in he just jumped in with the first group the other night. He’s got a whole year in the system now and through the OTAs. He’s another player going from one year to two years who should take a big jump. We expect that to happen.
There’s a fair amount to unpack here, but the long and short of it is that Quinn sees Neasman backing up Keanu Neal and potentially being a core special teamer, which matters a great deal with the team shedding a handful of Keith Armstrong favorites over the last couple of years. There’s also an expectation that Neasman, who I’ve always liked but was never certain could crack the 53 man roster, will take a jump forward. It sounds to me like that he’s not just going to be an afterthought on this roster, and that he’s more or less a lock to make it.
If Neasman can be a quality special teamer and reserve safety, the Falcons suddenly look even more stacked in the secondary than they already did, and they’ll have four young, useful players at the position. Quinn’s praise suggests that we can reasonably expect that to happen.