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Safety DeMarcco Hellams looks to take 'that extra step' in Year 2

DeMarcco Hellams proved in his first year with Atlanta why he shouldn't be underestimated. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Safety DeMarcco Hellams was selected in the final round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He was a standout player in all three of the Atlanta Falcons' preseason games, snagging a pair of interceptions in the first and second. He then appeared in 15 of the 17 regular-season games, even starting four.

"I'm sure people have underestimated me," Hellams said during organized team activities. "But it's all right. Everybody has their own opinions.

"I know it's on me to go out there and prove what I'm capable of and prove who I am to myself."

Hellams ultimately recorded 40 tackles, 25 of which were solo takedowns, last season. He also had a quarterback hit and a stop for loss.

The games in which Hellams started were the Falcons' Week 13 win over the New York Jets, Week 14 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Week 15 win over the Indianapolis Colts and Week 16 loss to the Chicago Bears. Hellams recorded 25 of his 40 tackles in these four starts.

"I thought DeMarcco did a fantastic job when he got his opportunity to go out there," Falcons assistant head coach/defense Jerry Gray said in December 2023. "He played in space, made some tackles in space. Actually, he's physical in the run game, which we like."

Atlanta Falcons defensive back DeMarcco Hellams #23 during OTAs at Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Photo by Taylor McLaughlin/Atlanta Falcons)

In each of Hellams' starts, he took the field alongside fellow safety Jessie Bates III. Richie Grant also initially joined them for two games, creating a rotation between the safeties. The times where there were three starting safeties were experimental and situational, hoping the package would put the Falcons in the best position to win while utilizing their overall roster talent. They did happen to go 2-0 in those instances.

"I was grateful for how my rookie year went out," Hellams said. "I wouldn't say I was happy because it didn't end how I thought it would as a player or as a team. I never want to get caught up on being an individual.

"But I definitely think from what people may have expected from me as a rookie, I may have passed those. But for the expectations that I set for myself, I'm not going to lie, there's a lot of things that I can get better at."

Like what?

"I always feel like there's room to improve in all areas," Hellams said. "But just taking a game one play at time, processing things at a faster pace and taking that extra step into my second year. Not being out there like it's my first time seeing things anymore."

He wants to be more like Bates, who's entering his seventh year in the NFL and has Pro-Bowl accolades. Hellams believes Bates truly trusts his instructs and preparation in live action. That's why Bates is able to consistently make standout plays — a team-high 132 tackles, 11 pass breakups, six interceptions and three forced fumbles in 2023, alone.

With more practice and experience, Hellams thinks he can also build that trust within himself. His hope is that his Year 1-to-2 jump is noteworthy. There's no reason it shouldn't be. Nothing is holding him back. Not with training camp around the corner in late July.

"No rookie development meetings or anything," Hellams said. "I'm definitely excited."

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