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Secret Superstar: William Moore, S, Atlanta Falcons
June 14th, 2012 | Author: Khaled Elsayed
A winning season. An early playoff defeat. A round of questioning.
That’s a trend that is becoming all too familiar for the Atlanta Falcons. Questions have been asked of the general manager, head coach, and franchise quarterback, but team ownership proved unwavering in their support for the trio, with the axe instead falling on the often conservative and predictable coordinators who would move on to pastures new.
That leaves the 2012 season as a big one for all involved. Atlanta needs to progress and without major additions in free agency outside of Asante Samuel, it’s going to involve players already on the roster stepping up. One of those players could be a guy we’re dubbing our Falcons Secret Superstar. Step forward William Moore.
On the Slide
Back in 2008 William Moore was seen as a top talent. At the University of Missouri he broke out with a big 2007 campaign that saw him finish the year with 117 recorded tackles and a school-record eight interceptions. His stock was so high that if he came out it was expected he’d be an early first round pick. He didn’t, and he followed up a 2007 that saw his play earn All-American and All-Big 12 first team honors with something of a horror show. Injuries contributed, but his stock was slipping, and it wasn’t helped by a Senior Bowl that many speculated would see him need to make a switch to linebacker.
That wasn’t going to be the case, but neither was he going to be a first round pick. Instead, he slipped all the way to No. 55 overall before the Atlanta Falcons took a chance on him.
Learning the Hard Way
As a second-round pick Moore was always going to be in the competition for a starting safety spot. With Lawyer Milloy gone, common wisdom suggested it would come down to two from the trio of him, Thomas Decoud and Eric Coleman, and so it proved. Only the rookie was the odd man out, after a knee injury stole four weeks of his preseason, before picking up a hamstring injury on his return. Not a great start, and not a great first year. His contributions on defense were nil, and he was limited to a handful of snaps on special teams that netted one tackle and one assist. With his season ending in October, his rookie year was something of a write-off.
Still, he was back the next year and–though battling some injuries–was healthy enough to endure a decent preseason. That didn’t push him past returning starters Coleman or Decoud on the depth chart, but with injury comes opportunity and that was the case for Moore. Coleman went down with a knee knock, and from Week 2 onward Moore would play as the strong safety as the Falcons went 13-3.
That record, however, masked over some serious issues with the Falcons’ secondary and coverage unit as a whole. The five interceptions Moore had were third of all safeties, but being in primary coverage on four touchdowns and giving up the sixth-highest number of yards per coverage play highlighted the problems Moore had and reinforced the feeling many had on him coming out of college; he could be a liability in coverage.
His play in coverage wasn’t the only problem as Moore got too aggressive in the run game at times. It led to him taking bad angles and missing tackles (one in every eight attempts in run defense) in his haste to make a play. The big plays often make you blind to what is going on consistently, but when all was told, the Falcons sophomore safety was our 13th-lowest ranked safety over the course of the regular season with a nightmare playoff game against Green Bay putting the exclamation mark on his season.
2011 he was going to need to improve.
The Ups and Downs of Year 3
If you’re rookie year is something of a pass and your second year is your first taste of action in the NFL, then season No. 3 should be when we start to get a real look at what you bring to the table. In that respect, Falcon fans should be both encouraged and concerned with what Moore was able to do. Over the course of the season (including playoffs) he got on the field for 615 snaps and earned a grade of +5.7, with a notable +4.0 in pass coverage.
You read that right. The guy many speculated would need to be a linebacker because of his problems in coverage actually turned it on and continued to show a knack for making plays on the ball. His seven pass disruptions (two interceptions and five pass break ups) were bettered by only 14 other safeties, despite him missing large portions of the season. He went from giving up 0.7 yards per snap in coverage to 0.59 as defenses targeted him an awful lot less. He even forced two fumbles. The play-making was still there and he’d ironed out some of the weaknesses that had been prevalent in 2010.
Now, there are still some concerns and there is still some work required. He misses more tackles than you’d like as he can forget about the fundamentals and instead go for the big hit or strip that sees ball carriers slip off him. He doesn’t always take the best angles which can leave him easy prey to agile backs. And then there are injuries … it’s possibly the most concerning thing that Moore has essentially spent three of the last four years of his career battling various ailments. As a safety not afraid to deliver a big hit, your mind turns to players like Bob Sanders when you think that the Falcons safety missed over 40% of Atlanta’s defensive snaps because of injury last year. Granted, the two have different body times, but the safety position is one that can wear a body down quickly. It’s not quite a trend, but it should be on the mind of people counting on him to deliver.
The Play-making Safety
Should Moore overcome these injuries, who knows how good a player he could become. His knack for making plays that result in turnovers and negative plays is rare among safeties, and his all-around game took a step forward last year. With a little bit of extra care and a lot more playing time, Moore has the tools to be more than just a Secret Superstar.
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