I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 15th-ranked player: safety Dwight Lowery.
To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.
Total Score: 64/100
Last year’s rank: N/A
Player Grade: 57/100
Teams he is starter: 20 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 10 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 31 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +2
Positional Bonus: +3
When the Falcons signed Lowery in early April, he appeared to be an afterthought for the team’s offseason plan to upgrade the free safety position after releasing Thomas DeCould in March.
Given the team’s need to find a suitable starter, Lowery appeared as a consolation prize. But he may be anything but.
Lowery is potentially an upgrade over DeCoud and not just the version of the former Falcons safety who played so poorly in 2013, but also the version that went to the Pro Bowl in 2012.
Lowery is an upgrade in several areas, particularly as a tackler. While Lowery would never be confused with an enforcer in run support, he takes good angles and consistently wraps up.
More importantly, Lowery is also an upgrade in man coverage, which will be critical for success in Mike Nolan’s defense. Lowery began his career as a cornerback with the New York Jets in 2008, serving as their nickel corner until injuries forced him to move to safety in 2010. He was then traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars the following year, where he was quietly one of their better defensive players over the next two seasons.
The main knock on Lowery is durability. He’s missed time every season since his rookie year, none more than last year when a blindside hit from Golden Tate caused a concussion that forced him out for the rest of the season. That led to his release and he became a player that snuck through the cracks in the initial weeks of free agency.
But Lowery’s presence should become more of a stabilizing force beside strong safety William Moore, whose play is geared towards aggression. When Moore can be aggressive, he’s at his best. But it was hard for him to be so in 2013 with the Falcons due to the poor performance of DeCoud.
If Lowery can be the ball-hawking, assignment-sound sort of free safety that DeCoud was in 2012, then it will free up Moore to be able to make more plays.
Lowery is operating under a one-year deal with the Falcons, so he seemingly is only viewed as a stopgap. But that could turn into something greater if he has a successful season. While the Falcons are poised to develop 2014 third-round pick Dezmen Southward long-term, there’s no reason why a productive Lowery can’t be brought back for another year to compete with him. It will be similar to the team’s decision to keep Erik Coleman in 2010 after both Moore and DeCoud had earned the starting jobs.
If Lowery doesn’t perform up to task, then the Falcons can move on with Southward and/or another option. In the end, he’s a relatively low risk for the Falcons that hope can pay big dividends this season.