Continuing the countdown of the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, let’s break down the fifth best player in safety William Moore.
To read about the methodology in how these rankings came about, you can click here.
Total Score: 79.5/100
Last year’s rank: 5th
Player Grade: 66/100
Teams he is starter: 31 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 22 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 32 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +1
Positional Bonus: +3
The Falcons missed Moore in nine games last year to a shoulder injury he suffered in the first month of the season. After spending eight games on the team’s short-term injured reserve, Moore came back in the final month of the season but re-injured the shoulder and wound up on season-ending I.R.
However the numbers back up that Moore still had impact in the limited games he played as he managed to play the majority of defensive snaps in five of them last year. In those games, the Falcons’ defense allowed an average of 20 first downs, 364 total yards, 271 passing yards and 93 rushing yards. In the other 11 games that saw Moore out of the lineup or injured, the defense allowed an average of 23 first downs, 414 total yards, 284 passing yards and 130 rushing yards.
The stark difference is clear in terms of rushing yards, where the defense improved by 28 percent with having Moore’s presence on the field.
That should be no surprise given that Moore’s greatest skill set is his ability to be an enforcer against the run on defense. Throwing his weight around and being one of the league’s most physical hitters helps infuse the Falcons’ defense with a toughness that they lacked a year ago.
That physical style of play has contributed to Moore’s durability concerns over the years. Over the course of six years in Atlanta, Moore has missed a total of 31 games due to injury. That averages to roughly five per season, forcing the Falcons to require quality depth behind Moore.
They appear to have that with Kemal Ishmael, who showed the prowess to be a similar enforcer against the run last season. Given Moore just turned 30 this past May, it’s possible that the Falcons could groom Ishmael to be his replacement as a starter in a few years.
Moore’s contract is structured that it appears iffy if he’ll be able to play out the final year of his deal in 2017 when he will count $8.65 million against the cap at age 32. That’s also potentially the same year where the Falcons have to decide whether to re-sign Ishmael as a free agent, making it a relatively smooth transition for the team should they opt to bring back Ishmael and axe Moore.
But one notable difference between the elder Moore and the younger Ishmael is the former’s superior play in coverage. While Moore has readily struggled and been exposed at times when asked to work in man coverage, his ability to play zone coverage is top notch. Moore’s size, speed and range allow him to fly all over the back end of the defense making plays.
That knack for being in prime position is why nine of Moore’s 14 career interceptions have come on tipped balls and overthrows. Coupled with his jarring hits that have led to 10 forced fumbles over the years, Moore has the capability of being a difference-maker when it comes to the Falcons defense creating turnovers.
That too is evidenced from last year’s stats where the Falcons forced the same amount of turnovers (14) in the five games which Moore played the majority as the other 11 in which he missed or was nicked up.
In 2015, the Falcons will need Moore to continue to be an impact defender in all three facets: run support, zone coverage and turnovers. Moore is expected to be one of the leader’s of the entire defense now in his seventh year. He showcased that leadership ability by accepting criticism from new head coach Dan Quinn on his consistency as a tackler and it’s likely it will result in a more disciplined Moore.
In Quinn’s defensive scheme he’ll be often asked to play in the box where he can continue to make an impact in run support. Given that Quinn’s scheme also predominantly plays zone on the back-end, it’s a system that is tailor-made to heighten Moore’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses.
So while Moore may not be guaranteed to last more than two seasons in Atlanta, it’s very likely that those will be two highly productive years, assuming Moore can shake the injury bug.