Atlanta Falcons: 2017 Training Camp Burning Predictions
Where Does Kemal Ishmael Fits?
Before the start of 2016 NFL draft, many Falcon fans were expecting the team to select another pass-rusher to help compliment Vic Beasley and his development but instead Atlanta took safety Keanu Neal. Now though the move was somewhat unexpecting, it did help bring in another cornerstone towards building Dan Quinn’s fast and physical defense but some could have made the case that four-year veteran Kemal Ishmael could uphold the position after posting back-to-back season with experience and given quality play. During the past year’s NFL draft, Atlanta selected linebacker Duke Riley from LSU to fight for the starting weak-side linebacker position leaving Ishmael as a quality depth player.
Just not long ago for two games early in the 2016 season, the Falcons began to utilize having someone like Ishmael who is began the season at strong safety until rookie Keanu Neal returned from injury which led to Ishmael’s move closer to the ball at the weak-side linebacker position. He flashed in his first game exclusively at linebacker against the Oakland Raiders where he racked up 14 total tackles. Sadly, Ishmael’s season ended early with a season-ending shoulder surgery which led him to the IR for the season.
Before his injury, one of the things that helped Ishmael make the transition to linebacker so well was ability to stay aggressive and finish as one of the team’s better tacklers. A physical demeanor can take a player a long way when making a switch of positions closer to the ball and Ishmael showed that he could withstand being in-between the tackles and contribute.
Even with the addition of Duke Riley along the roster, things could turn out nicely for Ishmael to take up special-teams reps and carve out enough quality snaps when the defense goes through its multitude of personnel groups.