Falcons' Ishmael might have to step up

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
7:00
AM ET
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- Neither safety Kemal Ishmael nor any of his Atlanta Falcons' teammates wanted to speculate about the status of starting free safety Dwight Lowery.

Ishmael
In all reality, the head injury Lowery apparently suffered during Friday night's scrimmage only emphasized the lack of depth and inexperience the team has at the position.

Sure, strong safety William Moore has five years under his belt and a Pro Bowl behind his name. But players such as Ishmael, rookie Dez Southward, and second-year player Sean Baker have yet to start an NFL game.

Ishmael, who stepped in for Lowery aside Moore for a brief stint Friday, seems ready for the challenge -- if the opportunity presents itself.

"I've been here a year and I'm ready to go," Ishmael said. "When one guy goes down, the next guy has to step up. We're cut like that. That's what we get paid to do. So, I'm ready. Any challenge that comes in my way, I'm just going to tackle it and do it to the best of my abilities."

Again, it's too early to speculate on Lowery's status. However, he missed the bulk of last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars after sustaining a concussion in Week 3 following a cheap shot from Seattle's Golden Tate. If he suffered another concussion Friday, it would be Lowery's third in the NFL and fourth since college.

"Dwight, he's a heck of a player," Moore said of Lowery. "I really don't know what happened to him or what not. I didn't even ask because I know he's OK. He got up and walked off on his own."

The Falcons already are down two safeties with the rookie Southward sidelined at least a week by a left knee injury and second-year player Zeke Motta expected to miss the entire season coming off neck surgery. Moore and Thomas DeCoud made up the starting safety combination last season, but DeCoud was released and is now with the Carolina Panthers.

As for Ishmael, he was a seventh-round draft pick out of Central Florida who primarily played on special teams as a rookie. He has had a strong training camp thus far.

"I did a lot of work this offseason," Ishmael said. "I shed some pounds, almost 10 more. I trained in Miami, but also came back here and worked with our strength coach. We did one-on-one kicking the soccer ball to make my right hip flexor and right foot better. Plant. Drive. Everything.

"I've been prepped, man. So I'm ready."

The possibility of Lowery going through the concussion protocol means an increase chance of Ishmael running alongside Moore when the Falcons practice against the Tennessee Titans come Monday. Such would be a valuable experience for the young safety.

Ishmael can play both safety spots but is more comfortable with one over the other.

"I like the strong," he said. "But I'll play free. This is my job. I'll do whatever they want me to."

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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