The Bird Cage Training Camp Battle Series, Fight for Fourth Safety Spot: Matt Giordano vs. Shann Schillinger vs. Rafael Bush. Even though not a highly regarded battle, the Falcons will look to finally develop a player at safety and possibly not just reserving it for special teams duties only.
One of the lesser known and noticed training camp battles on the entire roster involves several players competing for one spot as the last backup safety position on the roster. The position has been a revolving door of sorts the last two years, having players such as Jamaal Fudge, Antoine Harris, and Eric Brock rotate on the roster and soon rotate back on. The main duties have included being a special teams ace and rarely seeing much action on the field. That could change this year with William Moore’s constant injury issues and the Falcons possibly looking to develop a player to take the position on a more permanent basis. One of Thomas Dimitroff’s lesser known moves was to sign former Colts and Packers safety Matt Giordano in the off-season. The veteran will be in a heated competition with surprising 6th round draft pick Shann Schillinger and Undrafted Free Agent Rafael Bush. Will the Falcons go for depth or youth as they look for the final safety position?
The journeyman backup was signed by Thomas Dimitroff in the off-season and was well under the radar after Dunta Robinson got all the headlines with his big contract. Giordano didn’t get much action at all last year due to injury and only got on the field for 5 games, snagging only 2 tackles. Statistically, he had his best season in 2007 where he played in 12 games for Colts, started 4, had 20 combined tackles, 4 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions. Giordano is known for his special team abilities and that may simply be what Dimitroff had in mind when he inked him. Giordano may represent another name in the vein of Antoine Harris and Jamaal Fudge where he offers little more than work on special teams. Maybe he can bounce back and not only press for special teams time, but also get in the mix if William Moore continues to be injury prone. He will be in a tough fight with both Shann Schillinger and Rafael Bush because you have to think that if they’re close, then they’ll go for a developmental player.
Hailing from current defensive end Kroy Biermann’s alma mater of The University of Montana, Schillinger had really good production during his tenure for the Grizzlies. Even though he didn’t start as a sophomore, he was 10th on the team with 45 tackles. Schillinger really came into his own his junior year after starting “in all 16 games and was Montana’s second leading tackler. He led the Grizzlies with 10 pass deflections. He had a team-leading (tie) four interceptions. He also tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (two) and fumble recoveries (two)” (NFLDraftScout.com). Schillinger also had a very good senior year with 90 tackles and 4 interceptions. The former Montana safety brings a very nice set of ball skills with nice size (6’0, 202) and surprising speed (4.5 forty). Schillinger may not be the flashiest of names, but he appears to be an all-around very good and tough football player capable of covering, good hands, crushing hits, and making plays on the field. The big question, like all small school athletes, is whether or not the player is something special or if he’s simply a product of very weak competition. Schillinger would certainly make the most sense due to the fact that he could finally be a player they could develop as opposed to treating the spot like a revolving door.
Definitely the player with hardest route to the roster, Bush represents another player who will try to defy odds and go from being an undrafted free agent to making the active 53 man roster. John Parker Wilson was the only player to make the jump last year, but his past year’s draft class was one of the deepest in history. He already stands a good chance at least at a practice squad spot since he’s one of the few safeties and defensive backs eligible for that position. The other undrafted free agent safety, Gabe Derricks, was let go a few weeks ago to make room for Agnone at tight end. Following his collegiate career, was named to the South Carolina State All Decade Team. Bush made 222 career tackles in his time at South Carolina State. As a senior, was the fourth leading tackler on the team with 54 while recording three touchdowns. Last season was also voted the Defensive MVP by his coaches. Is versatile in the secondary as a cornerback or safety. Bush will be in the biggest fight of his career to make the huge leap to the active roster, but he surely may have a good change at a practice squad spot.
-Who takes the backup safety duty?
-Giordano for depth or Schillinger or Bush for youth?
-Is it a bigger battle than expected with William Moore’s health issues?
-Will the Falcons finally make this position more than special teams