The Atlanta Falcons added several key additions to the roster during the 2019 offseason. While the Falcons have one of the more complete rosters in the NFL, they still needed to add depth after suffering several injuries during the 2018 season.
The secondary had the biggest losses of positional groups for the Atlanta Falcons in 2018. Early in the season the Falcons lost Pro Bowl SS Keanu Neal and FS Ricardo Allen. Losing both of these players early in the season was an obstacle the Falcons were not prepared for. They attempted to add depth after trading for Jordan Richards from the New England Patriots. Richards ended up being a major disappointment and the Falcons struggled in the secondary all season.
The Atlanta Falcons needed to add depth in the secondary during the offseason and they accomplished that in the draft and free agency. In the draft they added CB Kendall Sheffield from Ohio State and CB Jordan Miller from Washington. In free agency the Falcons added SS J.J. Wilcox and brought back hybrid linebacker and safety Kemal Ishmael.
After these additions the secondary players that will be on the 53 man roster will be Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield, Jordan Miller, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Damontae Kazee, J.J. Wilcox, and Kemal Ishmael. This is a solid group going into the 2019 season but how will depth chart look?
For cornerbacks, it is safe to say starting on the outside will be Desmond Trufant and Isaiah Oliver. After those two the depth chart will depend on the preseason and training camp. Hopefully rookie CB Kendall Sheffield can bounce back from his injury and be able to step up right away on special teams.
Should Trufant or Oliver go down to injury, Sheffield needs to be the guy to step up. Wreh-Wilson is a veteran on the depth chart so it should not be surprised if we see him step onto the field before Sheffield or Miller. Hopefully Sheffield and Miller can impress the coaching staff sooner rather than later.
The starting nickel is going to be the most interesting position to watch for in the Falcons secondary. Many fans think it is going to be Damontae Kazee but Ricardo Allen should also be considered. The Falcons have enough pieces to give their defense multiple looks but Allen could thrive in the nickel. Allen is one of the leaders of this defense and knows every level.
Being in the nickel could allow him to be a more centerpiece and make more plays in the running game. It is important to keep Kazee at free safety, in 2018 he was tied for most interceptions in the league with Kyle Fuller and Xavien Howard with seven. His development as well as the defenses growth, the best case scenario is to have Ricardo in the nickel and Kazee at free safety for passing downs.
While Ricardo should be the starting nickel his presence and leadership is important for him to always be on the field. Whenever the Falcons are in their base 4-3 defense Ricardo Allen should be in at free safety and move into the nickel spot whenever the Falcons go to their nickel package. Falcons having Ricardo and Kazee gives them flexibility in the secondary. The starting strong safety to the team is obviously going to be Keanu Neal.
If there is an injury to one of the safeties the depth chart becomes tricky. If Keanu or Ricardo goes down to injury Kazee will obviously fill in. If there is an injury there Miller or Sheffield will likely move into the nickel. If there are two injuries at safety J.J. Wilcox will be the next man up. Ishmael will be used at safety in emergency situations. It is great the Falcons added Ishmael and Wilcox as they add special teams value. Hopefully the Falcons secondary will be much healthier this upcoming season compared to 2018.