While the Falcons didn’t come up big in the sacks department throughout the 14′-15′ season, they did have their fair share of interceptions. Atlanta ranked in the top half of the league in interceptions last season, and look to crack the top ten this upcoming season. The Falcons were ranked 12th out of 32 teams with 16 total interceptions, seven behind the leading team in the San Francisco 49ers. Other than having a top-five cornerback in the NFL in Desmond Trufant, the team will have to put their faith in players like Robert Alford, Philip Adams, and rookie Jalen Collins. I’ll go ahead and tell you what is going to happen this upcoming season; teams will do their best to not target Desmond Trufant. The pressure will continue to be on the other players around Trufant, but if Atlanta can actually generate a pass-rush this season, some weight will be taken off the secondaries shoulders. Below is a prediction of four Falcons secondary players that will have the most interceptions.
1. Desmond Trufant
2014 Interception Total: 3 INT
2015 Interception Projection Total: 6 INT
Last season, Detroit Lions free safety Glover Quinn led the NFL in interceptions at seven. Having Trufant with six takeaways might seem like a lot to people, but Trufant is just that damn good. Coming into his third season in the league, Trufant has very high expectations from not just fans, but himself. He believes he is a top cornerback in this league, and he will prove it yet again. Ranking as one of the best cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus last season, teams will have to game plan around the Atlanta corner. He has a nose for the ball, and he knows how to make plays. As previously stated, the defense will likely get more pressure on the quarterback. Quarterbacks tend to panic with pressure, so maybe Trufant could be gift-wrapped some takeaways. Teams will not target his way as much as normal, but expect him to keep progressing each and every year.
2. Robert Alford
2014 Interception Total: 3 INT
2015 Interception Projection Toal: 4 INT
Robert Alford was the next cornerback the Falcons selected after Desmond Trufant in the 2013 NFL Draft. So while Trufant excels, many believe Alford could be a late bloomer. However, the man has a nose for the football. In his first career game as an Atlanta Falcon, he had a game-changing interception on the road against the New Orleans Saints. The man has serious talent, but he is still a process in the making. A broken wrist ended Alford’s season last year, but he has looked solid in preseason games and practices. Like I stated earlier about the pass-rush getting better, it will take a lot of pressure off of Alford. Covering a wide receiver in not just the NFL, but in any league, for around eight-seconds is very hard to do. The corners faced a lot of criticism over the past two seasons, but not being able to get pressure on the quarterback did not do them any favors. Expect Alford to have a bounce back year, and make plays this season.
3. Kemal Ishmael
2014 Interception Total: 4 INT
2015 Interception Projection Total: 3 INT’
Although he is not listed as a starter, I just don’t buy the notion that he will not be playing this upcoming season. Ishmael was a 7th round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, but he saw the field a lot last season due to William Moore being injured. The part about Ishmael that excites me is that he is very versatile, as he can play both safety positions. If Ricardo Allen struggles at free safety, Ishmael might be the guy to replace him. William Moore tends to be injured a lot, so somebody has to play in his spot. He did have some subpar performances last season, especially the Green Bay game when he was beat for a beautiful 60-yard touchdown throw from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson. But Ishmael got his feet wet and has been there before, so do in fact look forward to seeing Kemal Ishmael somewhere on the field.
4. Ricardo Allen
2014 Interception Total: N/A (Practice Squad)
2015 Interception Projection Total: 3 INT
Having shoes to fill in for the departed veteran free safety in Dwight Lowery, Allen will have pressure staring him in the face. Teams will target the inexperienced safety, as Allen has to prove his worth out on the football field. Why I think Allen will have three interceptions is the fact that he was a ball hawk in college. He was cut last season as a rookie, but brought back to be on the practice squad. Basically, Ricardo Allen is playing in his rookie year, and he will be a key piece on the defense. The potential is there, but it is all speculation at this point. He has played well in the first three preseason games, but come Monday Night on September 14, that’s when everything matters.