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The Falcoholic’s 2018 Falcons Positional Review: Safeties

Fact: Damontae Kazee can tickle a football and make it laugh

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons defense has a lot of work to do this offseason. The decision to move on from Marquand Manuel and hand over the defensive play calling to Dan Quinn was a big step in the right direction. If Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal stay on track, the back end of the Falcons secondary should be in excellent shape this fall. But before we look ahead, let’s take a look back.

Ricardo Allen/Keanu Neal

Not much to say about these guys. They are still the starters, notwithstanding everything that happened in 2018. Allen played 205 snaps on defense before tearing his achilles. In that time, he earned an “good” (one notch above “above average”) PFF rating of 77.5. Neal played just 37 defensive snaps before blowing out his knee. Who knows what he would’ve accomplished this season? But it’s best not to think about it.

Damontae Kazee

I can’t say enough positive things about Kazee. Kazee finished the regular season tied for the league lead with seven interceptions. His PFF rating of 77.8 made him the NFL’s 18th best safety in 2018. But he really shone in coverage where he earned a PFF rating of 82.7, 10th among NFL safeties. Dan Quinn has already promised the starting free safety role to Ricardo Allen in 2019, but he won’t be able to keep Kazee off the field for long.

Jordan Richards

Richards played 428 snaps on defense in 2018, somehow earning a PFF rating of 65.2. (62nd among NFL safeties and “above average” according to their metrics.) The Falcons relinquished a conditional draft pick to get Richards because they weren’t satisfied with Ron Parker. Richards proved to be a liability in coverage and only slightly better against the run. He wasn’t great, but he also wasn’t as bad as some Falcons fans thought he was. The Falcons relied on Richards heavily at the beginning of the season; then they limited his snaps as the season went on. Richard has likely played his last snap as a Falcon, so no matter how you feel about him, he’s not our problem going forward.

Sharrod Neasman

Neasman was a real bright spot for the Falcons in 2018. Neasman rebounded after being cut by the Saints at the beginning of the year and helped solidify a safety corps in desperate need of depth. His PFF rating of 67.8 ranked 48th among NFL safeties. Neasman carved out a role in the nickel package this season, and he’ll look to lock down that same role in 2019 and beyond.

Kemal Ishmael

Ishmael only played 64 snaps on defense (5.86 percent of the Falcons’ defensive snaps). While he’s passable in run defense, at this point in his career, he’s a liability in coverage. Notwithstanding the 330 special teams snaps he logged in 2018, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Ishmael plays for the Falcons in 2019.

Keith Tandy

Tandy, like Ishmael, barely played on defense. In fact, he only played two defensive snaps for the Falcons in 2018, and nothing particularly bad happened during those two defensive snaps, so I suppose that counts for something.

Overall the Falcons coaching staff made do under less than ideal circumstances. There’s some incredibly talented depth on this roster at the safety position and that’s something to get excited about moving forward.

Your thoughts about the safeties in 2018?