With the front 7 defensively out of the way, we now take a look at the back end of our defense. I don’t know if you would go so far to say it’s the strength of our defense, but it seems to have the most front line talent. Not to say it couldn’t use an upgrade here or there, but a talented front 7 can make the back end look like world beaters….
Part VII-Defensive Backs
-Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Jalen Collins, Philip Adams, Travis Howard
Desmond Trufant-signed through the 2016 season, $2,598,303 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$1,379,745 dead money, $1,218,558 cap savings
Cut post 6/1-same
Trade-$1,079,745 dead money, $1,518,558 cap savings
Desmond is easily the top pass defender in the Falcons defensive backfield, and he’s starting to earn that reputation league wide. Through the first couple of games of the 2015 season, before teams realized we had no pass rush and were trying to get the ball off quickly, Desmond wasn’t even targeted. Later, after opposing QB’s became to know they had all day to throw the ball, some would take a shot Desmond’s way knowing no one can cover a WR forever. Desmond is also a sure tackler for the Falcons, though not a big hitter. Desmond should be at the top of his game again in 2016, hopefully with a little more help from his front 7.
Robert Alford-signed through the 2016 season, $1,082,263 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$213,346 dead money, $868,827 cap savings
Cut post 6/1-same
After a very difficult rookie season, Robert made some decent, not spectacular, strides his 2nd season. Now, after 2 seasons, you would expect Alford would make spectacular strides for his 3rd season. Nope, once again, decent, not spectacular. If you look at Robert from his rookie season to now, you can see how much better he is. Most folks don’t see the change because Alford’s a gambler. He will play close, jump routes, try and time the ball, always very aggressive looking for the takeaway. Night and day from Trufant actually who is more of a technician, playing it by the book, hoping for a takeaway. The problem with Alford’s play is his aggressiveness costs him in penalties as well as getting burned for the occasional long completion. I have been searching for the article for days, and my apologies, I can’t find it, but I promise it’s out there. Anyway, in the article, it states how, among qualifying CB’s in the NFL, only 2 players ranked ahead of Desmond Trufant in completions allowed in 2015. Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman both tied for the fewest at 31 allowed. Desmond was right behind them with 32. Right behind Desmond? Robert Alford with 38. That’s right, he ranked #4 in the NFL in fewest completions allowed by a CB in 2015. Lastly I will say this, in mid-season when the coaching staff decided to start playing Collins more, then backed off after a few games, Alford came back playing a lot better, sounder football. Just wish I could forget about him giving up on the long touchdown in the first game against Carolina.
Jalen Collins-signed through the 2018 season, $1,233,599 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$2,337,357 dead money, $1,103,758 cap charge NOT savings
Cut post 6/1-$1,233,599 dead money, $0 cap savings
Trade-$1,655,637 dead money, $422,038 cap charge NOT savings
RANT TIME!!!!!!!!! ANYONE WHO DOESN’T WANT TO READ ME GOING ON A TIRADE, SKIM DOWN TO THE NEXT PLAYER PLEASE!!!!!
OK, if you’re still reading, remember, I warned you. Jalen Collins was a waste of a 2nd round draft pick. At the 2015 draft, we were not the Patriots, Broncos, Packers, or any of the other really good teams looking for players who might contribute this year, hopefully in a year or two, or just trying to smooth out the rough back end of our roster. We were the bloody Atlanta Falcons who had just come off 2 seasons going a combined 10-22 with more holes in the team then in a swiss cheese factory, no offensive line, no pass rush, no tight ends, no linebackers and we just drafted 2 CB’s in rounds 1 & 2 two drafts ago in the 2013 NFL draft. What the f*@k was Quinn, Dimwitt, Pioli, King Arthur, whom ever thinking. Oh, wait, wait, wait, I’m sorry, I’m mistaken to put the blame on them, I completely forgot, it was all that Lionel Vital’s fault. He’s the one that apparently screwed the whole thing up. Look, I understand Quinn found a pot of gold at the end of the fifth round rainbow in the 2011 draft with Richard Sherman. He likes the size, the athleticism, and thinks all it takes is some coaching and WHAM! Richard Sherman 2.0. Let’s take a look and compare and contrast the players before they got to the pros shall we? Richard Sherman was a WR for his first 3 seasons at Stanford. Caught 81 passes for over 1,300 yards and 7 TD’s in basically 2 seasons. The fourth game of his junior season he was injured and missed the rest of the year. Coming back for his senior year, he was switched to DB, was good enough to start 13 games, pick off a couple of passes, returned 1 for a touchdown and had over 60 tackles. Did he bolt for the NFL? No! He applied for and was granted a medical redshirt for his lost junior year, came back to school, honed his craft enough to get drafted. Started a total of 26 games in college at CB with 6 INT’s. Drafted so late mainly because he was “raw” having only played 2 seasons at CB. Now let’s look at Mr. Collins. Played a total of 32 games in 3 seasons at LSU, with 9 starts, 1 INT. Got in trouble for, what we think was weed (not confirmed), bolted after his junior season because of his draft status (1st/2nd rounder). Don’t even get me started on what idiots said he should be good enough to be a 1st/2nd rounder, think I covered it pretty well in the dline section with Grady and Hageman. But what the hell made Quinn think, given a guy was only good enough to start 9 games in 3 seasons at LSU, that he was worthy of a 2nd round pick, nevermind reaching shutdown CB status. There is raw (Sherman) and there is not good enough(Collins), sorry, I refuse to call him raw. I can go down to my local high school, find a guy that is over 6 feet tall, over 200lbs, can run like the wind, jump over the moon, but he’ll be a “raw” CB, wanna take him in the 2nd round this year? Well, Collins wasn’t quite good enough to see the field the first half of the year, then someone decided he was good enough to play outside CB in nickel and dime situations, then in took them 4 games or so to realize they were WRONG!!!!!!! Then Collins didn’t see the field except for special teams the last 3-4 games of the year. With Trufant’s and Alford’s contracts both coming up at the end of the 2016 season, chances are 1 has got to go(Alford?), so it’s good to have a replacement ready so you don’t need to start a rookie in 2017 if you don’t have to. But couldn’t we have drafted that guy this year, when last year in the 2nd round we could have drafted someone that could have helped in 2015 and beyond, like I dunno, LB’s Bernardrick McKinney, Eric Kendricks, Hau’oli Kikaha, Denzel Perryman, C Mitch Morse, G Ali Marpet, S Eric Rowe, DE Nate Orchard. Hell, I’d have even take Randy Gregory and all his problems. Sorry, getting off on my rant again. Look, this is one where you just have to hope that Quinn knows what he’s doing, and hope he and Collins figure things out pretty damn quickly. Thank you, I now return you to your regularly scheduled roster evaluation. Oh, wait, I almost forgot. If the Collins drafting was all on Quinn, then that really terrifies me for our drafting future. It is said that Quinn and Dimwitt see eye to eye on a lot of things, they work well together, share the same vision. One of the things you could see in Dimwitt’s drafts was his love affair with potential over production. Dimwitt loves the draft combine and things like wingspans, standing broad jumps, and the like. Things that don’t tell you how good a football player is, but how good he could, not should, be. Well, what if Quinn has the same vision? What if Quinn likes the cybermetrics aspect that Dimwitt brings to a draft room? Sleep on that! Sorry again, I promise to continue on with the analysis now.
Philip Adams-contract expired, unrestricted free agent
I liked Philip Adams for what we needed him for. Was a solid #3 or #4 CB all year for the Falcons. Even when Collins moved in for a few weeks, Adams played just as smart and hard as he had before. I don’t know if, with 3 young CB’s under contract that they’ll re-up Adams for another tour, but I wouldn’t mind having him around, or someone a lot like him.
Travis Howard-signed through the 2016 season, $450,000 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$0 dead money, $450,000 cap savings
Cut post 6/1-same
Had to do some digging on Travis to find anything about him. 6’1”, 200lbs, so he’s got the size Quinn likes. Not overly fast, 4.5-4.58 40 times, so not slow either. Played his college ball at Ohio State so he comes from a football factory. Was signed as an UDFA by Houston following the 2013 draft. Cut, signed by New England,released, signed to New England’s practice squad, released, signed to the Giants practice squad in December of 2013. The next season, he was waived/injured by the Giants, when he cleared waivers, the Giants signed him to injured reserve for 2014. March of 2015 he was released by the Giants. August of 2015 the Falcons signed him and put him on injured reserve in September. A lot of teams, a lot of injuries in a small amount of time for Mr. Howard. Here’s hoping things get better for him.
Analysis: The front line CB’s for the Falcons are good. If the pass rush can improve, it will cut down on a lot of those long passes. Some still feel Alford’s best position is as a nickel CB covering the slot. Regardless, Collins is the wild card here. If Collins doesn’t improve a ton by next season, the 2017 off season could get very interesting with Trufant and Alford both coming up on free agency.
My Conclusion: Trufant and Alford are fine. With all of our other holes/weaknesses, it would be foolish to throw money/draft picks away on another CB. Collins has got to make strides, big strides, a lot bigger than Alford made from year #1 to year #2. I would sign Adams, or a player of his like talent, in the off season just to be safe. Nowadays, you need 3 solid CB’s at least, 4 is even better. I wouldn’t waste a pick here unless a certain player is available in the 7th round. I don’t want to spoil it yet. I’ll come back to it later.
Prediction: Adams or another CB will be signed in free agency and there will be 2-3 come in off UDFA. Quinn isn’t going to give up on Collins yet, but I don’t get the feeling Quinn carries a lot of rope around with him. He’ll have the opportunity to show his improvements in 2016 and if they’re not up to Quinn’s standards, he could be gone by 2017. I doubt they draft one, but I would have bet my house we wouldn’t have taken one so early last year either, so what do I know?
-William Moore, Kemal Ishmael, Akeem King
William Moore-under contract through the 2017 season, $6,493,750 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$3,300,000 dead money, $3,193,750 cap savings
Cut post 6/1-$1,650,000 dead money, $4,843,750 cap savings
Trade-same as pre 6/1
William Moore is exactly the type of strong safety Coach Dan Quinn needs to help make his defense very successful, except for 1 small detail, it only works if he’s on the field. Frankly, that’s not something that we’ve been able to count on from #25 for quite some time. Good tackler that can lay the occasional hard hit. Decent underneath coverage guy. Mostly what Moore brings to the defense is attitude. Attitude can’t be coached, it can’t be taught, and it can’t be faked. It’s the same as being a leader (which Moore is also by the way), some guys naturally have it, all others do not. William Moore has it. I just wish he could have it on the field more. Over 30 years old, injury prone, big contract, not looking too good.
Kemal Ishmael-signed through the 2016 season, $686,474 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$11,474 dead money, $675,000 cap savings
Cut post 6/1-same
For a former 7th round draft pick, Kemal has been nothing short of amazing. Each of the last 2 seasons, Ismael has had to fill in, A LOT, at both safety positions, but mostly strong safety. He’s not the biggest of strong safeties, which kinda plays against him, especially in Quinn’s defense. But Ishmael likes to hit, to jump up in the fray when bodies start flying around the field, which works against him as a free safety. I almost got the feeling Quinn and his staff were reluctant to put Ismael in, even when they really had no other choice. I like Kemal, but coaching staffs have what they look for at certain positions, and I just don’t know if Kemal fits the bill.
Akeem King-signed through the 2016 season, $525,000 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$0 dead money, $525,000 cap savings
Cut post 6/1-same
Oh, forgive me, I screwed up. Akeem was a strong safety in college but coach Quinn is attempting to make him a cornerback. I meant to list him with the cornerbacks and forgot. Sorry, I just don’t feel like going back and editing, so here goes nothing. Akeem was a 7th round draft pick with good size (6’3”, 212lbs). Instead of a strong safety, Quinn saw a cornerback. So Akeem spent the first part of the season on the practice squad trying to learn his new trade. Through a series of injuries, Akeem was finally promoted to the full squad and was immediately thrust into the fire on special teams and even some dime defense situations. In all honesty, Akeem’s play at CB was a mixed bag at best. You saw him do some good things, but also saw him get targeted in some one on one situations where he was grossly outmatched. He even came in and lined up at linebacker for 1 very important play against the Saints in the last game of the year and helped contribute a stop, covering our 2015 nemesis Ben Watson, which forced a punt and got us the ball back with a chance to win. We all remember how that turned out. I’ll actually be curious as to where Akeem lines up this season. I think he would have a better shot as a SS than a CB. We’ll see.
-Ricardo Allen, Robenson Therezie, Charles Godfrey
Ricardo Allen-contract expired, unrestricted free agent
A strange odyssey brought Ricardo Allen to the starting FS spot in 2015. A fifth round pick in 2014 as a cornerback, Ricardo was placed on the practice squad at the beginning of the season, then promoted late in the season when injuries dictated so. Even then, he wasn’t given that many chances on the field under the old regime. 2015 arrived with a new coach, new system, and a new lease on life for Ricardo. Quinn immediately saw something in Allen that said he would be better off at FS. And Allen took his new opportunity and ran with it. Though not quite the size Quinn likes in his FS’s(5’9”, 185lbs), Allen brings every bit of his body when making tackles, and in the 2nd half of the season, he was reading opponents pass patterns better and better. In 2014, we saw a lot of miscommunication on the back side of the Falcons defense. You didn’t see that in 2015 and Ricardo was a main reason why. If he comes back, Allen is another that I would be very curious to see the strides made in the 2nd year of a new defense.
Robenson Therezie-under contract through the 2017 season, $525,000 cap charge
Cut pre 6/1-$0 dead money. $525,000 cap savings
Cut post 6/1-same
Robenson made the club as an UDFA out of Auburn. He has a real nose for the game and became an important part of the Falcons secondary in 2015. Therezie makes good breaks on the football and isn’t afraid to throw his entire body at opposing ball carriers. Pretty much a cookie cutter of Allen as far as size (5’9”, 213lbs), Robenson makes well do with what he has. Like Allen, I expect Therezie to come back in year 2 with a much better understanding, and thus much better play, though what he showed in year 1 was pretty good.
Charles Godfrey-contract expired, unrestricted free agent
Sometimes the economics and restraints of roster size makes for some comical roster management during the season. Godfrey was released by the Falcons on 9/15, then re-signed on 10/6 only to be released again on 10/20 and finally re-signed on 10/27. I had honestly thought it happened more than that. Godfrey is a veteran and a very useful player to have on a team. He can play either safety spot equally well, which is to say you don’t worry about him messing up his assignments no matter where he lines up. A career backup, Godfrey knows his station and excels at what he’s asked to do, and the Falcons counted on him a lot toward the back half of the season. His versatility should serve him well, but with 4 safeties under contract already and the probable re-signing of Ricardo Allen, Godfrey’s future is probably with another team.
Analysis: As solid as we are at CB, that’s how up in the air things are at both safety positions. William Moore can’t stay healthy, Ismael seems to be a really good back up, but not a starter and Akeem King is a SS trying to transition to CB. At FS, our starter is a free agent, the backup, though solid, was an UDFA and the swiss army knife Godfrey is a free agent. Some moves need to be made here, but which ones?
My Conclusion: I bring Allen back, he shouldn’t cost too much as he’s just had 1 year as a starter. Therezie is my backup. Sorry Charles, I like you but you got to go. William Moore? What to do? When he’s on the field he’s the heart and soul, but too often he’s just another pulse on the sideline. I cut him. And that’s a painful cut. But it’s time to move on. You can’t continually count on someone just to have them let you down (through no fault of his own). I draft someone here if someone I like is available at the right spot. This is an important position for Quinn’s defense to work. All the adulation thrown Richard Sherman’s way in Seattle, that defense didn’t really start to hum until Cam Chancellor took over at SS. It needs to be a LB-type that can cover WR’s and TE’s. Sua Cravens may be one in the upcoming draft, would probably have to take him in the 2nd round. Miles Killebrew is another that you could probably get in 3rd/4th round. An outside the box idea might be Deion Jones, OLB LSU. A bit on the small size for an OLB (6’1”, 220lbs) Deion can cover, can really run and is a sure tackler as well as a big hitter. I move Akeem back to his natural position of SS and he and Kemal can keep the spot warm until the rookie is ready. If we can somehow find a few extra picks, I’d like Jalen Miles from LSU at FS. I got to see him in a couple of games this year, and I really like what I see from him. Can cover, tackle and can get sideline to sideline in the blink of an eye. At 6’, 215lbs, Miles would offer that size advantage that neither Allen nor Therezie can. But like I said, that would be a luxury if we had the picks.
Prediction: I hope the Falcons have learned their lesson relying on the oft-injured year after year (2013, 2014 offensive line) and cut ties with William Moore. I don’t know if they draft anyone here because with just 5 picks, Quinn has stated that the trenches are where the concentration would be. Allen is brought back for the right price. There will be some UDFA’s and maybe a mid-level UFA at strong safety.