Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Next up is safety. One of the most stable position groups on defense, three of the four safeties who played significant snaps in 2021 are returning for this season: 2021 second-rounder Richie Grant, 2020 fourth-rounder Jaylinn Hawkins, and veteran re-signing Erik Harris.
Next up, third-year safety Jaylinn Hawkins.
S Jaylinn Hawkins
Age: 24 (25 during 2022 season)
Contract: $1.06M cap hit in 2022, rookie contract through 2023
Career Production: 26 games played, 6 games started | 37 total tackles, 21 solo, 1.0 TFL, 0.5 sacks | 3 PD, 2 INT
2021 Production: 14 games played, 4 games started | 24 total tackles, 13 solo, 1.0 TFL, 17.2% MTR | 3 PD, 2 INT, 57.9% completion rate allowed, 87.5 passer rating allowed | 58.8 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 4th Round (134th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2020-present)
As I mentioned in Grant’s profile yesterday, the Falcons spent considerable resources reshaping and replacing the vast majority of their safety room heading into the 2021 season. The lone survivor of that transition was 2020 fourth-rounder Jaylinn Hawkins—the final secondary selection of Thomas Dimitroff’s tenure. While Hawkins is unlikely to match the star power of A.J. Terrell, he’s already looking like a solid-to-good value for his draft spot after two years in the NFL.
Hawkins, a versatile and interchangeable safety out of Cal, was initially drafted as a depth piece behind starters Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. He played well in a reserve role and even got a few starts under his belt late in the season after Allen’s injury. In his second season, now under new defensive coordinator Dean Pees, Hawkins once again began the year as a rotational player. He’d wind up playing nearly 50% of the defensive snaps, functioning as a versatile piece and one of Atlanta’s best coverage safeties.
I’d argue that, despite being drafted for Dan Quinn’s defense, Hawkins is actually a better fit in Pees’ scheme. He is an ideal Cover 2 safety who can play deep and rotate closer to the line of scrimmage due to his plus size. Hawkins clearly has strong coverage instincts and already looks like one of the best ballhawks in the secondary. Where he’s struggled thus far is in run support, as Hawkins missed 5 tackles on just 29 attempts for a disappointing 17.2% missed tackle rate (MTR) in 2021. Hawkins is an early favorite to earn a starting role in 2022, especially if he can clean up his tackling.
Projection: Jaylinn Hawkins is a favorite to earn a starting role heading in to his third NFL season. Hawkins is already one of Atlanta’s best coverage safeties, and can take the next step by becoming a more reliable tackler and run support player.