ATLANTA, GA- Playing only three snaps of defense through the first nine games the Atlanta Falcons played, Zeke Motta, safety, replaced Thomas Decoud in the second half and played a total of 26 defensive snaps against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Coach Mike Smith seemed to be pleased with the rookie’s play that Sunday even though he only recorded one tackle, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had already elected to run the ball against the Falcon’s soft rush defense.
“I thought he did OK in that spot,” Smith said after the game. “He is a guy that has a body type more of a strong safety, but has some athleticism to play some free safety and we wanted to get him in there and get some snaps at the free safety position and I thought he did a pretty good job. That was his first time of playing any significant play time in the regular season.”
The experiments with the order in the depth charts came on the tail end of three horrible losses to the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, and Seattle Seahawks. Each opponent won by at least two scores. This forced the team to try to find the answers to their problems in their back-ups and rookies. Honestly I’m surprised the team has not plugged Motta in sooner than this. Admittedly, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan stated that Thomas Decoud has struggled a bit this year. He has even taken to social media to vent his frustration the fans are piling onto him.
Putting Motta in would not only prepare the rookie for when disaster inevitably happens, if the pro-bowl caliber Decoud were to ever go down, but it would give Decoud some time to think and evaluate his position on the sideline.
Sure he’d be pissed off and that’s what I think needs to happen. Competition is what drives people to produce at a higher than average rate. Apparently winning wasn’t enough for some guys to play until their legs caved in, but that’s what I like about guys like Motta.
Zeke was drafted in the seventh round by the Falcons. Actually he was the second of three seventh round draft choices that the Falcons had. In college he started 29 of 51 games at Notre Dame, but he had 179 tackles, 90 of which were solo tackles. He also had two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and a half-sack. As a freshman he played on special teams as well as switching between outside linebacker and the safety position.
The good thing about Motta is that his talents in the secondary are broad. He states at Notre Dame they had no differential between the strong safety and free safety position. Hopefully this will translate into meaning that he has the knowledge and know-how to play the entire field as well as the ball. His experience as outside linebacker doesn’t hurt either.
Hopefully we’ll see more of Motta in the lineup somewhere down the line.
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