COVER 9@9: Falcons staying with Richards, Neasman at strong safety

Did team make a mistake by not trading for Clinton-Dix? 

1. Falcons pass on adding safety help: The Falcons sat out the trading deadline again this season.

They did sign veteran offensive lineman Zane Beadles, who was cut by the 49ers in May, but didn’t do anything to help out their injury-ravaged defense.

The Packers traded safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Redskins for a fourth-round pick. 

Clinton-Dix would have certainly helped and would have been worth the fourth-round pick even if he was just a rental player for this season.

“I think it helps them in a big way because of the way (D.J.) Swearinger is playing back there (at safety),” said Fox analyst Charles Davis, who will call the game between the Falcons and the Redskins on Sunday. “You throw Clinton-Dix in there and now you really lock down the middle of the field. I think it probably allows Swearinger to be much more of what he does naturally, be more of a strong safety and let Clinton-Dix be the free safety.”

Davis wasn’t surprised that the Falcons didn’t make a move.

“They like to do it from within,” Davis said. “They believe the way they do their fundamentals and the Plan D (program) and every thing else that they do, that’s a better bet for them.”

The Falcons defense has been hemorrhaging yards and points, which has made every game a shootout. They had a chance to put the Buccaneers away and could not. They went up 20-6 over the Giants before the defense allowed a rally and needed a 56-yard field goal from Giorgio Tavecchio. 

The Falcons have come up with plausible replacements for free safety Ricardo Allen in Damontae Kazee and a mixture of Duke Riley and rookie Foye Oluokun for Deion Jones, but the answer at strong safety needs to step up.

The Falcons sent a conditional seventh-round pick to the Patriots for safety Jordan Richards on Aug. 31. He’s been getting most of the snaps at strong safety.

We’ve been waiting for him to make a play and watching closely. Richards, who came to the Falcons with a reputation for being a good special teams player, hasn’t done much to impress.  

One play can’t get erased from our  game film reviews: Against Tampa Bay where he got ran over by Bucs running back Peyton Barber. 

The box safety can’t get run over.

Clinton-Dix can play both safety positions and my Green Bay folks tell me that he’s better near the line of scrimmage, but was playing mostly deep for the Packers.

With the energetic Swearinger, Clinton-Dix will be free to torment the Falcons’ anemic rushing attack.  

Before the trade deadline, the Falcons contended that they had “the players in the building” that they needed.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn went on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday and reiterated that point. 

The Falcons think the can get better by splitting up the position.

Against the Giants, Sharrod Neasman played 40 defensive snaps (62 percent) at strong safety. Richards played 24 defensive snaps (38 percent). Neasman had three tackles and Richards did not have a tackle.

In the previous game against the Buccaneers, Richards played 65 defensive snaps ( 98 percent) and finished with one tackle. 

“Yeah, we really tried to mix the position, almost like linebacker where we rotated him and Jordan some,” Quinn said. “We'll continue to do that. We liked how it went with Foye and Duke when we did that, and we increased Foye's reps significantly. And we did it with Neasman as well. So, we'll continue to work through that.”

Good for Neasman. He’s been a player trying to make it in the NFL. 

After Allen went down, Neasman was signed to backup at strong safety and play on special teams. He was with the team in 2016 and 2017.

Neasman played in 11 games last season. He played in six games including three playoff games in 2016. He signed a one-year, $630,000 deal with the Saints after his contract ran out with the Falcons. He was released by the Saints on Sept. 4. 

Quinn wanted someone familiar with the defense. 

The Falcons tried him at both free safety and strong safety. Things started to click for Neasman after they moved him to strong safety in 2017.

2. Beadles signed: With both starters on injured reserve, the Falcons signed veteran guard Zane Beadles on Tuesday. 

The Falcons released defensive tackle Michael Bennett to make room for Beadles, who played in all 16 games for the 49ers last season and made five starts. 

Beadles, 31, was a second-round pick out of Utah by the Broncos in the 2010 NFL draft. He’s 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds. He’s played in 128 games, including 115 starts.

Beadles played for the Broncos (2010-13), Jaguars (2014-15) and 49ers (2016-17). He made the Pro Bowl in 2012.

Bennett was signed after Grady Jarrett suffered an ankle sprain. He saw limited action the past two games. 

3. Series: This will be the 25th meeting between the Falcons and the Redskins, who hold a 14-9-1 advantage. However, the Falcons have won the last five meetings.

4. Rushing attack needs improvement: Because of injury, the Falcons will start their third different combination along the offensive line with Ben Garland taking over at right guard for Brandon Fusco. The unit will be charged with improving the rushing attack. The Falcons average 83.3 yards per game, which ranks 30th in the league. The Redskins, who held the Giants to 38 yards rushing in their 20-13 win on Sunday, allow 80.1 yards per game, which ranks second in the league. 

5. Sack attack: Led by defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis (2.5 sacks), the Redskins had seven sacks against the Giants.

6. Peterson is aging well: Redskins running back Adrian Peterson, who’s 33, rushed for 149 yards, including 107 in the fourth quarter in the win over the Giants. He had a 64-yard touchdown run and was running 20.37 miles per hour, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. 

7. Ryan climbing the charts: In the win over the Giants before the bye week, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed 18 consecutive passed to close out the 23-20 victory and completed passes to 10 different receivers. 

Ryan, who’s played in the passing friendly era, moved up to 13th on the all-time completions list. He has 3,817 completions and moved ahead of Vinny Testaverde (3,787).

8. The fans voted: Here’s the twitter poll on whether the Falcons made a mistake by not going after Clinton-Dix. 


9. Depth chart:  The Falcons released their official depth chart for the game against the Washington Redskins.


WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall 

LT 70 Jake Matthews. 74 Ty Sambrailo

LG 71 Wes Schweitzer, 72 Rees Odhiambo

C 51 Alex Mack, 71 Wes Schweitzer

RG 63 Ben Garland, 68 Austin Pasztor 

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 69 Zane Beadles. 77 Matt Gono

TE 81 Austin Hooper, 82 Logan Paulsen, 85 Eric Saubert 

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage 

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub 

RB 26 Tevin Coleman, 25 Ito Smith, 32 Brian Hill

FB 30 Ricky Ortiz 


DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 90 Derrick Shelby, 56 Steven Means

DT 99 Terrell McClain, 94 Deadrin Senat 

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 95 Jack Crawford 

DE 98 Takk McKinley, 50 Brooks Reed 

LB 42 Duke Riley, 36 Kemal Ishmael 

LB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 55 Bruce Carter 

LB 59 De’Vondre Campbell 

CB 23 Robert Alford, 20 Isaiah Oliver, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 28 Justin Bethel

FS 27 Damontae Kazee, 35 Keith Tandy

SS 29 Jordan Richards, 41 Sharrod Neasman 


K 3 Matt Bryant, 4 Giorgio Tavecchio

KO 5 Matt Bosher 

P 5 Matt Bosher 

KR 14 Justin Hardy, 18 Calvin Ridley

PR 14 Justin Hardy, 17 Marvin Hall

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher

Subscribe to “The Bow Tie Chronicles” podcast with the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter on iTunes or on the new AJC sports podcasts page.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.