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The Atlanta Falcons enter the 2013 season with the easily the deepest safety group they have had in years. Starters Thomas Decoud and William Moore both earned their first trip to Hawaii after enjoying breakout seasons last year under new DC Mike Nolan. Decoud, playing free safety is asked to use his range and athleticism to cover deep down field, while Moore plays the bruiser role and often roams freely near the line of scrimmage before the snap. Decoud responded with a career year posting 76 tackles, 6 interceptions, 1 sack, and 9 passes defended. While these styles of play may be exciting, they also sometimes lead to missed plays while trying to do too much, or in the case of Moore, get injured, limiting him to just 12 games in 2012. Albeit effective ones, putting up 75 tackles, 1 sack, 4 picks, 8 passes defended and 2 forced fumbles. Add 4 games to those totals and you have some really eye popping numbers for team known for its talent on the other side of the ball.
Behind them, the past few seasons the Falcons have relied on veteran help such as Erik Coleman and Chris Hope to help tutor their starting safety tandem and step on the field when needed. With Moore never starting a full 16 game season in his career, it was clear Atlanta needed someone else who could fill the void. Enter Charles Mitchell. Drafted in the 6th round, 192nd overall out of Mississippi State, Mitchell has the ability to line up at both safety spots providing much needed insurance to a vulnerable group last season.
Heading into the 2013 NFL draft, GM Thomas Dimitroff held no secrets when it came to the organizational game plan. Defense. Everybody knows the Falcons can score, putting up 419 points. Good for 7th in league scoring.
Using their first 5 draft picks on shoring up depth at multiple positions, Atlanta still possessed three 7th round selections.
Holding back to back picks, the Falcons used the 243rd selection on 5’11 206 pound safety Kemal Ishmael out of Central Florida. Voted Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year by conference head coaches, Ishmael lined up all over the secondary for the Knights finishing his career as CF’s all-time leading tackler for a defensive back.
Dimitroff then pulled off his second double-dip of the draft, snatching up fallen Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta with the 244th pick. Originally slated to go much higher than that, Motta finished up his career with the Fighting Irish playing for the National Championship. Many people will remember that game for another Irish star on the defensive side of the football getting exposed, but Ezekiel “Zeke” Motta got a lot of respect from scouts for his toughness and never say die attitude. Even as the game became increasingly out of hand, Motta did not stop battling Bama’s star running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon downfield and showed why he was worthy of getting a chance to play at the next level.
These are the type of players that management loves to pile up in Hotlanta. Insurance selections you can develop and eventually plug into the system and not miss a beat.
Of course, DC Mike Nolan and co. are hoping that Mitchell, Ishmael and Motta remain just that. Insurance. As the Falcons will need Pro-Bowlers Moore and Decoud in top form if they wish to accomplish their Super Bowl dreams.