Included in their discussion centering on the Combine, was a brief discussion of safety Zeke Motta. And it made me think that the Falcons are much higher on Motta than probably his play may merit.
Is it possible that the reason why the Falcons did not successfully land a free safety to replace the recently released Thomas DeCoud is because they believe Motta is capable of competing for the starting position?
But first, let’s take a look at what exactly Dimitroff said. This comes in the portion of the podcast where Eisen was asking whether or not the workouts done at the Combine influence teams’ draft boards.
Eisen: Does your board change now?
Dimitroff: No question. It changes and yet we’re very mindful of it not changing drastically. But there will be movements up and down. And quite honestly as much as we don’t want to talk about and we don’t want the agents to hear about it, when someone runs a truly horrible 40 time, it’s amazing how quickly a player can plummet.
Eisen: Just the one 40-yard dash?
Dimitroff: It’s amazing. One of the guys last year that we acquired through the draft was Zeke Motta from Notre Dame. Your guy Mike Mayock loved him and he didn’t run a good time at the Combine unfortunately. We drafted him in the seventh round and there was no way he should have been a seventh rounder. He fell quite a bit and we like what we have in him now. Some people just don’t run good times. They’re not good 40 time guys but they play a lot faster.
Eisen: So here you are using an example of how a guy dropped because of a 40 and yet he’s a football player that is more than useful to the Atlanta Falcons organization. So why read so much into somebody’s 40-yard dash?
Dimitroff: We talk about it all the time and the league is a matchup league. And that part of the matchup is so important. You can have the most athletic and smooth, fluid individual running routes, catching balls, doing whatever but if they can’t stay in phase, meaning they can’t stay with that player. Whether that’s a defensive back and a receiver or an O-lineman mirroring a D-lineman they have no chance in this league. So from a speed standpoint at his position it’s very important for him to have range and people pass him up. There are those situations where guys are football and game-speed fast and not on the fly.
It’s very clear that the Falcons don’t see Motta as just another seventh-round pick, and see his talent level to be more than that. In fact, some thought that Motta was several rounds better than where he ultimately was selected in 2013.
Ultimately it boils down to whether the Falcons think so highly of Motta that they don’t feel as compelled to address the safety position this offseason. The quality of safeties available in free agency has pretty much dried up. Headliners like Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward were signed quickly off the market, leaving a handful of mid-level starters and declining veterans left.
While the Falcons could certainly pounce on one of these players in the second or third wave of free agency later this month, they might not feel as compelled to if they have more faith in Motta.
Motta did have an opportunity to start one game and play the better part of a second as the team’s free safety. He did not fare particularly well, partly because his lack of ideal speed and range to play the cover role in the secondary. He struggled to stay “in phase” as Dimitroff puts it.
But it’s possible that the Falcons could tinker with moving strong safety William Moore to free safety, and starting Motta at his more natural strong safety position. Moore is experienced enough to make the secondary calls, and even garnered reps last season as the Falcons weren’t afraid to make him and DeCoud interchangeable at either safety spot.
In the end, I would be very surprised if the Falcons failed to make a major addition at safety this offseason. Whether that’s a veteran addition via free agency or waiting until the draft to select a player, I would be shocked if Motta entered camp as the incumbent starter.
But what would not surprise me is if the Falcons added a player, particularly a rookie, and also gave Motta the chance to compete for the starting role.