Breaking down the Falcons roster by position: Safety

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As we near the end of our Falcons roster breakdown by position — with three position groups left — here is one that should be a strength in 2020, providing this unit can finally stay healthy. If you missed any of our breakdowns so far on offense or defense, click the links below.

The Starters

Like every team, the Falcons will have two primary starting safeties, but three guys will see a ton of action this upcoming season. In their base defense, it will be Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Allen is the quarterback of the defense at the free safety position. However, he’s suffered multiple serious injuries the past two seasons. In 2018, he tore his Achilles in the third week of the season, costing him the rest of the year. Last year, he was able to play in all sixteen games but had offseason shoulder surgery. His rehab is coming along well, though, and he should be ready for the season opener. However, Allen’s injury concerns pale in comparison to Neal.

The Falcons 2016 first-round selection began his career with a bang, helping the team to the Super Bowl as a rookie and making his first Pro-Bowl as a sophomore. However, back-to-back season-ending injuries leave his future in question as he enters his fifth season. In 2018, it was a torn ACL in Week 1. Last year, it was a gruesome torn Achilles in Week 3. When Neal’s on the field, he’s an undeniable force, but the Falcons desperately need him to stay healthy.

Because of the injuries to both Allen and Neal, Damontae Kazee has received a ton of playing time and even led the league in interceptions two seasons ago. He played a lot of cornerback last year, but Dan Quinn said the plan is for him to move back to safety in 2020. Even if Allen and Neal are fully healthy, expect Kazee to receive a lot of reps all over the field as a swiss army knife, especially on coverage downs.

The Backups

If injuries do happen to be a problem for this group in 2020, at least the Falcons have some reliable reserves. Sharrod Neasman is back. He’s spent the last four years in Atlanta, playing in 41 games and can step in if a couple of safeties go down. The Falcons also signed Jamal Carter last year, who appeared in eleven games, and they drafted Jaylinn Hawkins out of California in the fourth round of this year’s draft. I don’t imagine Hawkins will ever start this season, but he is quality depth and should play a role on special teams as a rookie.

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