Posted: 7:53 am Saturday, January 25th, 2014
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
MOBILE, Ala. – In addition to heavily scouting the offensive and defensive linemen, the Falcons came away from their week of Senior Bowl practice impressed with three safeties.
(Also, there was more than a little buzz in personnel circles at the Senior Bowl that the Falcons covet Buffalo free safety Jairus Byrd, who could become an unrestricted free agent if he can’t reach a contract extension with the Buffalo Bills.)
The Falcons had the opportunity to work with Washington State’s Deone Bucannon and Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon. Also, Vanderbilt free safety Kenny Ladler from Stephenson High, who will play for the South, impressed the Falcons.
After chatting with Bucannon, you can see why the Falcons are impressed with the bright young man.
“I think my best skill is my knack for making plays,” Bucannon said. “My football I.Q. is high and those are things that safeties need. I also feel that my instincts are also there as well. I feel like coaches only need to tell me something one time for me to understand it and process it. That helps me learn the defenses.”
And, he’s also humble.
“There are things I need to work on as well,” Cannon said. “I need to work on my (not audible) and my flexibility. Those are the things I need to work on. I’m going to do whatever it takes. Whatever team I’m blessed to be picked by, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get on the field.”
Here are five players to watch in the game at 4 p.m. today on the NFL Network. They impressed the Falcons during Senior Bowl week and could end up in Flowery Branch. The Falcons have selected 14 Senior Bowl players since general manager Thomas Dimitroff took over in 2008:
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: The All-Big Ten pick is 6-foot-6 and 311 pounds. He was disruptive in practices and difficult to block in the one-on-one drills. He has size and explosion for his size. “He has brunt strength and is as strong as all outdoors,” defensive line coach Bryan Cox said. “He’s done a really good job.”
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: He was dynamite in practices. He has a knack for splitting double teams. He’s 6-1, 288 pounds. He should spend most of his time in the South’s backfield Saturday. He would like to be drafted by the Falcons after spending a week with Cox. “I love the way he coaches,” Donald said. “He doesn’t let you slack at all.”
Kenny Ladler, FS, Vanderbilt: Ladler, who played at Stephenson High before going on to star for the Commodores, was an all-SEC selection. He has a nose for the football. He was the only FBS player last season with five interception and five forced fumbles. He impressed the coaches with his ability in the classroom.
Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State: Falcons coaches lamented the fact that they won’t be able to blitz, per game rules. But Bucannon picked things up quickly and showed some good range.
Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor: He moves with great fluidity as his hips turn with ease. He was an All-American safety and three-year starter, made 288 career tackles, 12 breakups and four interceptions. He was a member of a senior class that played in four straight bowl games for first time in school history and earned program’s first Big 12 Championship and BCS Bowl berth in 2013.