Jamal Carter was not the choice I expected to replace Keanu Neal on this roster, even though as a practice squad safety he was a perfectly logical one for this football team. After the Falcons worked out T.J. McDonald and George Iloka, I thought we’d be seeing an outside veteran join the team.
Instead, it’s Carter, a former Broncos UDFA who never really managed much playing time on defense in Denver, but did have a role on special teams. Yesterday I wrote that Carter was not particularly fast but the reality is that his 40 time (4.64) is extremely close to Keanu Neal’s (4.62), so it’s not like he’s exactly slow, either. He’s a little taller and a little heavier than Neal, but like the man he’ll be trying to partially replace, he’s a big hitter who is gungho to make plays on the ball. Everything in that profile suggests he’s a guy Dan Quinn would like, which is why it’s hardly shocking the Falcons scooped him up on the practice squad this year in the first place.
What’s a little more shocking is that Carter might actually step into a role, if Quinn’s comments Wednesday are any indication.
Quinn says he's not going to give away too much, but with Jamal Carter and why they like him: Liked his toughness, his presence in the box and physical play. Thinks he's someone who can develop into the position and has done a good job— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) September 25, 2019
Quinn says sometimes a player needs his shot, needs his chance, and they think Jamal is capable of that.— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) September 25, 2019
Carter’s obstacles to playing time are not significant, really. I love Kemal Ishmael and always will, and he still figures to be the first man to get a crack at the starting job with Neal on the shelf for the rest of the year. But it’s also true that Ishmael was quasi-moved back to safety after J.J. Wilcox got hurt, meaning he was already an option of some resort. Sharrod Neasman, of course, went from starting a year ago to ceding a role to Ishmael, who moved back over from linebacker to safety ahead of him. It doesn’t take any great stretch of the imagination to see the Falcons seeking other options if either or both of those guys falter even a little bit.
With Quinn’s decision to elevate Carter instead of handing the keys over to an experienced veteran free agent, expect him to step into at least a special teams role this week, with the potential for some real snaps on defense. It seems crazy in such a critical year that Quinn would turn to a practice squad player in a team’s time of great need, but it indicates either a tremendous amount of faith in Ishmael or genuine excitement in terms of Carter’s potential. Both possibilities concern and intrigue me, much like the Falcons themselves.