The Falcons have only a handful of starting spots that are truly up for grabs in 2020, and we’ve covered off on most of those at this point. My feeling all summer has been that veterans with a ton of experience have a leg up on younger players at pretty much every position battle except cornerback, where A.J. Terrell is very likely going to start.
Given that, any sign that the Falcons might turn positions over to promising but less proven options is something I at least want to explore. That’s why yesterday’s news from D. Orlando Ledbetter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution bears mentioning.
The most promising development is that Matt Gono was sharing first-team reps at left guard with James Carpenter, with Matt Hennessy working with the second team. That wasn’t the only item of note, however, as Atlanta’s also giving Damontae Kazee starting reps at free safety. The team has been expected to use three safeties at the same time much more often than in years past, so we do have to consider the possibility that the team is just going to give both Kazee and Allen enough starting reps to be ready for the season.
Could this team be considering starting Kazee next to Keanu Neal, though? Kazee has shown a knack for big hits and timely turnovers during his time with Atlanta, but Ricardo Allen has been entrenched as the starter since 2015. Kazee has 29 games of starting experience now at both safety spots and has 10 interceptions over the past two years—it goes without saying that’s by far the most of any Falcon in that span—and is probably due to start the year as a full-time starter. Allen has been as consistent as they come since 2015, however, and is one of the more underrated defenders the team has had over that span, consistently making critical stops in the secondary and proving to be a locker room leader on a team observers like Jeff Schultz at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution believes otherwise has a leadership vacuum.
If this is the team seriously considering whether Allen or Kazee is going to start at free safety, it’s worth monitoring closely. If it’s just getting everyone ready for three safety sets in 2020, it’s still interesting because it means we’re heading for some different looks on defense this season.
It’s worth noting, as well, that both will be free agents following the 2020 season, and it’s extremely likely Atlanta will only be able to afford to bring back one. This season will likely help determine which one, but we’ll get a clue as to the team’s long-term plans for the position with the ultimate starter at FS, given that Kazee is the turnover machine but Allen has been a reliable stopper for years.
It’s nice to have some position battle-related news to chew on for once. Now to see if it comes to anything.