Motta joins Falcons' youth movement


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Zeke Motta isn't the least bit comfortable.

It has nothing to do with the Atlanta Falcons rookie's performance on the field. It has everything to do with the cumbersome brace Motta has had to wear on his right hand the past few weeks after breaking a finger.

Motta gave his hand a chance to breathe when he removed the cast during open locker room on Wednesday.

"I think I'm supposed to be wearing it," he said with a sly smile.

It's not like Motta is one to rebel against the team's wishes. Besides, he continues to catch the eyes of coaches because he is willing to do whatever they ask. He plays with somewhat of reckless abandon, although Motta is no means out of control on the field.

"I thought he did a good job with the so-called 'live bullets,'" defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said, referring the Motta's first-extensive playing time against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. "It wasn't too big for him. He didn't get all starry-eyed. He was good. He had blood all over his face. I don't know what busted open on him, but he was hitting people and doing a real good job."

Motta, a seventh-round draft pick Notre Dame, played a season-high 55 defensive snaps (out of 71 total) against the Packers after stepping in for an injured Thomas DeCoud. With DeCoud going through the concussion protocol right now, there is a chance Motta could start against the Washington Redskins this Sunday.

He seems well-prepared for the opportunity based of his performance last week.

"Going up there playing at Lambeau Field, wouldn't want it any other way, with the snow coming down and the freezing-cold weather," Motta reflected. "Those are moments you dream about. And I think going in there, I kind of prepared like I was going to play. So when my number was called, I just kind of stepped in and did what I knew how to do, and that's play ball.

"There are some things I can improve upon, certainly, which is each week. But I still felt like I played good. I was confident out there. And I was having fun and flying around."

Motta, a natural strong safety filling at DeCoud at free safety, displayed his ability to be a sure-tackler, something the Falcons have been lacking, at times, from the secondary this season. He was credited with 10 tackles against the Packers after the coaches reviewed the film.

"I thought he tackled well," Nolan said of Motta. "He missed an opportunity or two in there. I know he shook his own head about missing the interception on one of the plays. But I like the way he played. He's very aggressive. He defeated some crack blocks .... He had his share of a couple of mistakes, but so does everybody. But for the first time out, the tackling probably impressed me more than anything.

"As a matter of fact, one other thing that he did real was, he was really the main guy to allow William [Moore] to get the sack. What he did on that play was key in helping us out on that. Again, that's good awareness on [Motta's] part."

Motta responded to Nolan's high praise.

"That's nice to hear from the defensive coordinator, for sure," the safety said. "It's cool. I just have to keep working at my craft."

Based on the Falcons' ongoing youth movement, Motta should get plenty opportunity to mature as a player and prove his worth over the final three games.