Depth issues are also creeping up on the defensive side of the ball for the Atlanta Falcons. The issue is primarily with the team’s defensive backs.
The team’s depth at defensive back took a big hit early, when safety/nickel back J.J. Wilcox was lost for the season. Wilcox was expected to play a prominent role defending slot receivers.
Damontae Kazee the teams starting slot cornerback has played well. In fact he has been the team’s best defensive back in the exhibition season.
Kazee has earned a PFF grade of 76.8 over two preseason games. He seems ready for the regular season. Damontae Kazee appears to be a star in the making, as a defensive back that can play every position in the secondary.
The only concern about Damontae Kazee, is the fact that he sustained a rib injury. Fortunately for Atlanta, the ailment does not appear to be serious.
His backup, rookie Kendall Sheffield suffered a hamstring injury as well. This limited him to just seven snaps in the Atlanta Falcons third preseason game.
Honestly Kendall Sheffield had yet to have a good performance prior to the injury. He is extremely fast, but has trouble finding the football at times. This causes him to commit contact penalties such as pass Interference, defensive holding, or illegal contact.
This weeks brief appearance marked the first game that Sheffield had not drawn a yellow penalty flag. He has graded a pedestrian 55.3 in coverage and 55.8 overall, for this exhibition season thus far.
Unfortunately with the hamstring aliment, I suppose we have seen the last of Kendall Sheffield until the regular season starts. He will have to use practice to improve and prepare for the season.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson is probably the next defensive back in line to see on the field time. Yet he has been terrible in the preseason himself. Blidi Wreh has a coverage grade of 43.4 and an overall grade of 47.9 through two games.
Rookie Jordan Miller has drawn good reviews from his work in practice, but it has yet to translate to the field. His PFF grade is a disturbing 40.8 in 103 snaps so far.
Two players that have long been believed to be long shots to make the Atlanta Falcons roster, have played better than most of the teams draftees and incumbent players. Those men are Chris Cooper and Ryan Neal.
Cooper an undrafted from Stony Brook in 2018, has a PFF grade of 66.9 in 103 snaps thus far. He has primarily played in the slot position.
Neal plays mostly left cornerback and was an undrafted free agent himself. He hails from Southern Illinois. Ryan has posted a solid grade of 70.6 by Pro Football Focus. Should things continue the way they have been going, Dan Quinn has to consider keeping either Cooper or Neal around, maybe even both.
As for the starters other than Damontae Kazee: Desmond Trufant, Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal, all saw their first action of the preseason. Neal and Allen joined the fray in a game, for the first time since sustaining injuries last season.
All three men played limited snaps with mixed reviews, but there is still time for them to round into shape. They are all talented veteran players who should be fine.