Camp Preview: Safeties

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The Falcons embark on training camp with some fresh faces at the safety position. As the last line of defense, the Falcons’ safeties feature a good mix of hard-hitters and ballhawks, but they’ll have to remain healthy and play cohesively if they want to improve on last year’s debacle of a season. After releasing the under-performing Thomas DeCoud, Atlanta tapped into free agency and the draft to find an upgrade.

Returning to start at strong safety is William “Missouri Hammer” Moore. Moore had a down year in 2013 — likely due to the lack of surrounding talent — but says he’s already seeing the positive effects of playing behind the big bodies that were added along the defensive line. A punishing, violent hitter, Moore is at his best when he’s able to roam the defensive backfield, and 2014 should give him plenty of opportunities to do just that.

Newcomer Dwight Lowery wasn’t exactly the new addition many fans were hoping for after the release of DeCoud. However, Lowery came in and made a name for himself early on in OTA’s by picking off multiple passes in team drills. Praised for his instincts, the key to Lowery’s success will be whether or not he can stay healthy for an entire season, something he’s had trouble doing in his career.

The Falcons spent their 2014 third-round pick on Wisconsin safety Dezmen Southward. A versatile defender with the ability to play safety or cornerback, Southward is still raw and will need some time to develop before he can be trusted with a starting job. Southward’s huge potential has the Falcons excited about his future. His elite athleticism, range, and size make Southward a prototypical defensive back in the mold of Seattle’s vaunted secondary.

Second-year safety Kemal Ishmael returns after spending much of the 2013 season on the game-day inactive list. Known in college for his superb tackling skills, Ishmael can make his mark on 2014 with solid special teams play and by earning the top reserve spot behind Moore.

Another second-year player, Zeke Motta looked decent in his limited snaps with the Falcons last season. Motta provided strong run support but had his growing pains in coverage. He suffered a neck injury late in the year that has put his 2014 season in jeopardy. The team hasn’t released an official statement on Motta as of yet, but it’s possible he could land on injured reserve before camp begins.

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