The Atlanta Falcons’ offseason is just about done. The draft is over and most of the free agents with something left in the tank have been signed. There are a few free agents still out there, but none would be a tremendous upgrade to the safeties already on the roster.
The safety position will be very important in head coach Dan Quinn’s defense. They will be relied upon to roam the middle of the field and help the cornerbacks on deep passes. In order for the defense to perform at an elite level, the free safety must be a ball hawk.
So, which player best fits the free safety position of those on the roster? In order to find out, let’s examine the choices.
The odds on favorite is Dezmen Southward. He has elite size and speed. Southward was clocked at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. He stands 6’1 and weighs in at 210 pounds.
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He runs very well from sideline to side and has excellent closing speed. The one downside to Southward is that he didn’t start playing football until he was a senior in high school.
However, that only proves he is a quick learner. This bodes well for him as he has been learning a newer but simplified system since the new regime took over.
Charles Godfrey is very intriguing to me. He has similar measurements as Southward, and has had some good production in the league prior to injuring his Achilles — he has 11 career interceptions. If Godfrey gets healthy, he may make a push to get his career back on track, which would put him in position to cash in on free agency next year.
Kemal Ishmael played very well last year in the strong safety position. He is a sure tackler. Ishmael possesses good ball skills and reads the quarterbacks eyes very well. He had four interceptions last year and has the ability to make big plays.
Dec 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is sacked by Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36) and defensive end Jonathan Babineaux (95) during the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Who could forget his goal line strip of Jimmy Graham in the game against the Saints late in the season, which set up a showdown against the Panthers for a playoff berth? Making big plays like this can help cement Ishmael’s spot in the starting lineup.
Sean Baker got into some games last year and was productive. He is quicker than he is fast which allows him to close in and make sound tackles. Baker ran a respectable 4.65 forty at his pro day coming out of college and possesses good size at 5’11, 210 pounds. He has a knack for playing football.
Akeem King is one of those special athletes that teams like to draft in the later rounds to develop them into future contributors. King has freakish athleticism, and the Falcons hope he will become a top notch defensive back. He stands 6’3 and weights 212 pounds, yet still managed to run a 4.4 forty with a 37-inch vertical.
King is long, athletic, and physical. He put up 20 reps of 225 at his pro day which is strong for a defensive back. He originally played wide receiver before being moved to cornerback in college. In his final season he played safety. He has fluid hips, breaks on the ball well, and can run, and may end up playing corner for the Falcons.
Who will be his mate in the secondary?
I actually think that this will be a fierce competition during camp. My prediction is that Southward’s speed and coverage skills will land him the starting free safety position.