Took a break on Saturday, and I’m coming back with a scouting report on an up and coming defender in the Falcons secondary: free safety Thomas DeCoud.
Pros: Has good speed which allows him range to make plays in centerfield. Shows ball skills to make a play on the pass and break up an errant throw over the middle. Has good closing burst to deliver hit to ballcarrier.
Cons: A bit undersized, and tends to rely on hitting rather than wrapping as a tackler. Doesn’t have great hands, and can be prone to dropping interceptions.
2010 Outlook: DeCoud had a breakout 2009 season, after doing very little in 2008. The Falcons are hopeful that he can show similar improvement from 2009 to 2010.
DeCoud lacks the potential to be an elite free safety. But he fits well in the Falcons defense and certainly has the potential to be one of the better safeties in the league. He doesn’t have the speed, range, and ball skills of a player like Ed Reed, but he grades well in all those areas. He is a good hitter that can bring the pain, but probably could stand to get bigger and stronger as a tackler. He tends to rely on cutting a ballcarrier’s legs as opposed to wrapping him up. That can lead to some broken tackles if he manages to take a poor angle. Fortunately, for the Falcons that wasn’t often the case.
In coverage, DeCoud is capable. He’s not a guy that is going to lock down top receivers or tight ends in man coverage, but he’s functional there. But his main duties are playing centerfield and working deep coverage as the Falcons often use Cover-2 schemes.
His awareness should improve in coverage as he gains more experience. That should allow him to better be in position to make plays, particularly interceptions. He doesn’t have the best ball skills for a free safety, but he is above average in that regard. So he’s probably not going to be a guy like a Nick Collins or Ed Reed that can consistently rack up six or more picks in a season, but DeCoud certainly is good enough to get at least half that number on annual basis.
Last season, DeCoud played at a higher level during the first half of the season than he did in the second half. There could be various reasons for why that was the case, none of them I pretend to know. But the Falcons will definitely hope that can he continue to make plays throughout the season.
In Summary… DeCoud is a good player that has upside to become a solid free safety. If last season is any indicator, he is emerging as a major building block for the Falcons young, developing defense for the future. The team will be counting on him to continue his progress and develop into a more consistent playmaker in his second season as a starter.