Safety was a position that was subject to change constantly last season and in to the offseason. During camp it is a position of extreme interest and an intense position battle.
There is not a lot of experience at the safety position. Only one safety currently on the roster has more than four years experience, and that is veteran Quintin Demps. The youth movement is on, and young guys will play significant roles this year; so let’s take a look at the contenders:
Demps: Obviously experience is going to be his advantage over the other safeties in camp. He also has experience as a return man, and any more services a player can offer a team the better his chances are of making it. He would not be a primary returner, but in the NFL next man up is a way of life.
Outcome: Earlier in the offseason I wrote about how he was on the roster bubble, but I’ve reconsidered and think he makes the team as a backup.
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Antonio Allen: The Texans acquired the fourth year safety in free agency this offseason. The former Jet appeared in 38 games for the Jets from 2012-14 and collected 110 tackles. His lone interception was in 2013 and he returned it 23 yards for a touchdown. The former seventh round pick saw plenty of action over his last two seasons in New York, and should have a good chance of making the roster.
Andre Hal: He was a major difference maker for the secondary last season. Playing as the nickel back, he led the team with four interceptions and one pick six. They moved him to safety full time later in 2015 and he figures to get the vast majority of the snaps this season due to his ball skills. At just 190 pounds he’s not a very big safety, so he should hardly ever be playing close to the line of scrimmage. Like Allen, he was also a seventh round pick.
Outcome: Starting free safety
Eddie Pleasant: The former Oregon Duck enters his fifth season in the league, and has missed just two games over the last three years. He has 63 tackles in that span, and recorded his first two career interceptions last season. Coming off his best year as a pro, he will be in good shape to keep his starting position.
Outcome: Starting strong safety
KJ Dillon: The fifth round pick out of West Virginia partnered with 14th overall pick Karl Joseph with the Mountaineers, and I think he will become an excellent in the box safety, but I think it will take some time. He can dish out hits, but has a tendency to take bad angles in the run game but he does tackle well. I think it’ll take a season in the NFL to refine his game, but I think sooner rather than later he will be a good player.
Outcome: Third safety, sees the field a lot
Lonnie Ballentine, Kurtis Drummond and Corey Moore are off the roster. Ballentine and Drummond will fight it out for a practice squad spot with Drummond taking it. Ultimately Ballentine’s history of injuries will either land him on the PUP.