Safety is one of Atlanta’s biggest question marks coming into the season. While William Moore is the definite starter at strong safety, the free safety situation is a cause for concern. Ricardo Allen, a fifth-round draft pick in 2014, has been taking first team reps as of late, but will he be dependable? With former Falcons safety Dwight Lowery departing to the Indianapolis Colts in free agency, the free safety position is up for grabs. Coming into 2015, the Falcons worked to address the cornerback position, but how will the safeties fare this upcoming season?
With many question marks, let us take a look at some defensive stats by the Falcons last year. Atlanta was ranked 29th out of 32 teams in pass coverage. ProFootballFocus.com had Dwight Lowery ranked the 43rd overall safety, 32 spots ahead of William Moore. Lowery started every game in 2014, meaning the backups did not see a lot of reps behind him. His counterpart, William Moore, has failed to live up to the hype that he had surrounding him after some solid seasons early in his career.
Moore has had several issues with his play the last few seasons. Durability has been the biggest issue for Moore, as he has missed 17 games in the last four seasons. Last season, it seemed every game he did play in, he ended up heading to the locker room before halftime due to an injury. If Moore cannot stay on the field, the Falcons safety situation will be a huge problem. But even when he is healthy and playing, he will get caught out of position. He is very aggressive and has a tendency to bite on a lot of play action passes. Being a five-year veteran, Moore has the experience to stay away from those mistakes. However, he has made a number of great plays for the Falcons over the years and will be counted on to be one of the leaders on the defense this season. Hopefully he can stay healthy and be a great leader for Atlanta in 2015.
Now are you comfortable with Ricardo Allen starting at free safety? The man who was cut in 2014 and was taken back to be on the practice squad? Allen will be the target of many opposing offensive coordinators around the league early and often. It it will not take long to find out if he is up for the challenge. In college, Allen was a ball-hawk, breaking the Purdue record for interceptions taken back for touchdowns. He has shown signs of those skills in mini camps thus far. He spent most of last season on the practice squad, but eventually made the 53-man roster. The previous coaching staff held Allen in high regard, but his size seemed to hold him back. At 5’9” and weighing in at about 185 pounds, he is undersized, but it looks like it does not bother Quinn and the new coaching staff.
He has never played a down in the NFL, and it will take him a while to earn the coaches and the fans trust. If he does not perform, it should not take long for defensive coordinator Richard Smith to make a change. Charles Godfrey and Kemal Ishmael are two possible options who could also fill the void at free safety. Godfrey played in seven games for the Panthers before being released and picked up by the Falcons last season. Ishmael might end up spending the most time of all three of these guys on the field. He saw a lot of action at strong safety last season due to the injury to William Moore. He had four interceptions and even returned one for a touchdown last season. He played in every game and was a nice surprise for the Falcons in 2014. He is a man who should not be forgotten on the Falcons roster and could see a lot more of the field this season if Ricardo Allen or William Moore struggle.