We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. The fourth group I’ll be examining is CB, where the Falcons have had some significant turnover in 2020. Long-time starter Desmond Trufant is gone, and the team invested a first-round pick in A.J. Terrell to replace him. Can this unit improve measurably from 2019 without their best player?
Today, we take a closer look at second-year player and presumptive starter in the slot, Kendall Sheffield.
CB Kendall Sheffield
Contract: $864K cap hit in 2020, rookie contract through 2022 ($935K APY)
Career Production: 16 games played, 11 games started | 46 total tackles, 1 FF, 9.7% missed tackle rate | 3 PD, 74.5% completion percentage allowed, 110.0 passer rating allowed
2019 Production: Same as above
Previous Teams: Drafted 4th round (#111 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2019-present)
After moving on from both outside starter Robert Alford and slot starter Brian Poole in the 2019 offseason, the Falcons were in the market for CB depth. The assumption was that safety Damontae Kazee would be able to make a seamless transition back to CB—Kazee was originally drafted as a corner and played his entire college career at the position—and take over Poole’s duties in the slot. Atlanta also drafted Kendall Sheffield out of Ohio State in the fourth round to serve as developmental depth.
Although Damontae Kazee didn’t play particularly well in the slot early in the season, he was forced back into a safety role after Keanu Neal’s season-ending injury. That led to rookie Kendall Sheffield getting the call-up, and Sheffield wound up starting 11 games for the Falcons in 2019. Sheffield was undoubtedly thrust into the spotlight too quickly, and he struggled mightily early in his season. He also showed some admirable flashes and managed to finish with some encouraging performances.
Sheffield is a phenomenal athlete, and is likely the fastest player on the Falcons’ roster heading into 2020. He was a track athlete in college and broke Ohio State’s 60-meter dash record in 2018 with a time of 6.663 seconds. Sheffield was even rumored to be faster than former teammate Denzel Ward, who posted a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. That athleticism, combined with his solid size, makes him an ideal fit as a slot CB.
There’s a lot to like about Sheffield, who has sky-high potential in the slot heading into 2020. But there are also significant questions, as he was one of the NFL’s worst CBs in coverage overall in 2019 (according to PFF). The Falcons have made no attempt at finding competition for him in 2020, even going so far as to cut their most proven CB in Desmond Trufant this offseason. If Atlanta’s defense is going to improve this year, Sheffield taking a big step forward will be a necessity.
Projection: I expect a second-year leap from Kendall Sheffield, who I believe will turn his flashes into more reliable play from the slot in 2020. With more experience under his belt to go along with his incredible athletic gifts—and hopefully more consistent coaching from DC Raheem Morris—Sheffield should turn in an average to above-average season.