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Falcons’ Lowery, Southward competing for free safety spot

Dwight 
Lowery

Dwight Lowery

photo

Dezmen Southward

ATLANTA — When the Atlanta Falcons signed Dwight Lowery to a free-agent contract on April 8, the assumption was he would replace Thomas DeCoud as the starting free safety. That assumption seemed safe even after the Falcons selected raw Wisconsin prospect Dezmen Southward in the third round of the draft.

But it appears the Falcons may prefer that Southward emerge as the starter with Lowery as insurance.

“We want him to compete for a starting job,” head coach Mike Smith said of Lowery. “We want all of our guys to have that mindset. Dwight is an experienced player (with) a lot of games under his belt. Dez, we like his skill set. He can run. He just has to learn the system. He will get an opportunity to compete with Dwight and the other guys.”

It would seem Lowery has the edge because of experience and pass coverage ability. Lowery has started 41 of 68 games over six pro seasons and has earned a reputation as a solid cover man. Plus, Lowery played in Rex Ryan’s defense, which is similar to that of Falcons coordinator Mike Nolan.

“Coverage ability, but also understanding football and what offenses are trying to do with different formations and different matchups,” Lowery said of his strengths. “Having experience playing throughout the secondary, being able to cover different types of athletes — that’s something that’s definitely my strong suit.”

Southward, meanwhile, said he didn’t play in coverage at all until his senior season at Wisconsin. The Falcons drafted him higher than most analysts projected while citing his size-speed combination and athletic ability.