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Falcons DB Isaiah Oliver Seeing Snaps at Safety; Position Change?

Oliver has spent his entire career at cornerback, starting outside and now working in the slot.

Following a strong finish to the 2020 season after moving from outside corner to nickelback, Isaiah Oliver had significant momentum entering 2021 in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. He began the campaign in good form, starting three of the first four games, and posting three passes defended and one forced fumble.

Unfortunately for Oliver, his season ended prematurely from a knee injury in Week 4. However, he impressed the Atlanta Falcons' new regime enough to warrant a one-year contract and a second chance to improve his own stock entering round two of free agency.

Now back in the fold, the Falcons have Oliver working in multiple spots. Largely working with the second-team defense as he gets back to game speed, Oliver has seen snaps at both nickel corner and safety.

According to Falcons coach Arthur Smith, the team is simply trying to expand Oliver's versatility, in turn affording defensive coordinator Dean Pees more options in regard to personnel.

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"There's a couple guys we're trying to cross-train," Smith said. "No different than the O-Line. Depending who's up on gameday, you've got guys that can play multiple spots. You've only got 48 guys up, and if you want to run multiple personnel packages, which we do, you've got to be able to cross-train guys."

Oliver’s skill set appeals to Pees for the same reasons it does for Smith: he can blitz, cover, and play zone. The diversity of Oliver's game is essential for Pees’ defense to succeed, so Atlanta's veteran defensive coordinator is all for the 2018 second-round pick adding more tools to his arsenal.

"(Getting reps at safety) is actually something Coach (Dean) Pees likes," Oliver said via ESPN. "Nickels especially, kind of knowing the safety position because those two go hand-in-hand."

Once written off as a draft bust, Oliver is now in line to play a key role for the Falcons defense, spearheaded by his versatility. Still, that arguably isn’t the biggest ability Oliver will need to bring to the table in 2022: availability.

Last season, Pees declared that Oliver's absence took away some of the deception he hoped the defense would have. Now entering his second consecutive contract year, Oliver's ability to play multiple spots will only add to his value, uplifting not only himself but the rest of Atlanta's defense along the way.