Kemal Ishmael works in vicious hits the way some work in watercolors, with a clear passion for the artistry involved. Having moved to linebacker, Ishmael might just take it to a whole new level.
#Falcons LB Kemal Ishmael, a former safety, said he put on weight in offseason. Mostly more lean meats. "Make those 15 extra lbs look good." pic.twitter.com/isRhbkdaJj— Justin Felder (@Justin_FOX5) August 1, 2017
I don't know if Ishmael added exactly 15 pounds, but the upshot here is that he's even bigger and more dangerous than he was when he was at safety. It seems very likely Duke Riley will be a starter with Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell will soak up plenty of snaps, and Ishmael will be the fourth linebacker for all intents and purposes, so it’s not clear how often he’s going to get on the field in 2017.
What is clear is what Ishmael brings to the table. He’s a classic thumper who always played like he was a linebacker even when he was at safety, a guy who could snag a turnover or flatten a running back, but had some coverage limitations. As good as he’s been for the Falcons in the past, I’m excited to see what he can do at linebacker with a little more weight behind those bone-jarring tackles.
It is clear that he will continue to be valuable, and as long as his additional weight doesn’t sap him of all his speed and agility, Ishmael will be at the very least one of Keith Armstrong’s favorite special teamers.