The Atlanta Falcons defense has come alive in the last two weeks, allowing an average of just 12 points per game. Here we spotlight five Falcons that played well in their 24-10 win over Carolina and three that did not.
Defensive Player of the Week
Isaiah Oliver – Cornerback
Rookie Isaiah Oliver has come a long way for the Atlanta Falcons this season. He’s gone from looking completely lost in coverage during the pre-season, to allowing a game winning touchdown to AJ Green in week 4, to getting his first career interception to ice the game against Carolina in week 16.
Isaiah Oliver played only 20 snaps but he showed he is ready to handle many more reps. He was targeted four times by Carolina and allowed only two catches for 30 yards. Only seven of the 30 yards came after the catch. Carolina quarterbacks had a microscopic qb-rating of just 35.4 when throwing to the receiver Oliver was defending.
Oliver had a pass defended along with the previously mentioned first career interception. He also made three tackles on the afternoon. Oliver should start opposite of Desmond Trufant to end the season. It’s time for the team to move on from Robert Alford,
Pro Football Focus Grade: 88.7
ATL All Day Grade: A
Sharrod Neasman – Strong Safety
Sharrod Neasman became the starting free safety in week seven, after Jordan Richards flopped given the first opportunity to replace the injured Keanu Neal. Neasman has been better than Richards, but he has been far below an adequate replacement.
Sharrod Neasman played his best game as Falcon against the Carolina Panthers. He had a career high 11 tackles in week 16. Four of those tackles were stops. (a tackle that results in a gain of three yards or less and doesn’t go for a first down or touchdown) He did miss one tackle, but Neasman was a major force in the run game as a box safety.
Coverage wise Sharrod Neasman wasn’t as prolific. He was targeted three times and gave up catches on all three. He limited the damage on those catches though, allowing just 19 yards. Only eight of those yards came after the catch.
A repeat performance on Sunday against Tampa, could solidify a roster spot for Sharrod Neasman. I just hope his role is on special teams as opposed to being a starter.