One can make the argument that safety William Moore is now the top player on the Atlanta Falcons defense. With injuries constantly sidelining linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, it’s Moore that is often tasked with being the vocal, veteran leader of the unit.
Moore is entering his sixth season in Atlanta and will take on a different leadership role thanks in part to the departure of Thomas DeCoud. Moore and DeCoud had been steady starters for the Falcons at the safety position since 2010. But now DeCoud is gone, and presumably replaced with Dwight Lowery, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While cornerback Desmond Trufant had a very strong rookie season a year ago, he still is a young player that is still learning. He’ll be joined by fellow second-year cornerback Robert Alford in the starting lineup, making Moore the only starting defensive back with more than a year’s worth of experience in Atlanta. Besides nickel cornerback Robert McClain, Moore is the only player in the Falcons secondary that has played in Mike Nolan’s scheme since the defensive coordinator’s arrival in 2012.
All those things put greater pressure on Moore to be a key piece in the puzzle as the Falcons look to improve their defense in 2014.
Moore is coming off a down year, particularly when measured against his Pro Bowl performance in 2012. But he was by no means bad in 2013, instead there were just a couple of plays he left on the field last year. And it will go a long way to improve the defensive play if those become plays he makes in 2014.
Notably there were a couple of dropped interceptions last season that Moore left on the field. One of the hallmarks of Moore stemming from his days at Missouri is his opportunistic nature: the ability to take advantage of mistakes by the offense and turn them into turnovers for the Falcons.
Over four years as a starter in 56 total appearances, Moore has 14 interceptions and 8 forced fumbles. That works out to be Moore potentially creating a turnover in every 10 quarters of play, a fairly high rate. Only four defensive backs have created more turnovers over the past four seasons: Charles Tillman (35), Jairus Byrd (24), Richard Sherman (24) and DeAngelo Hall (23).
But again, there were a couple of those potential turnovers left on the field in 2013. Notably one came in the season-opener against the New Orleans Saints where Moore dropped in an interception midway through the third quarter. He had a clean break on the throw, but just couldn’t reel it in. At that time, the Falcons had four-point lead against the Saints, but that missed opportunity gave the Saints another chance to score a touchdown, which they did. And it would be the final points scored of the game, ultimately leading to a Falcons loss.
That potential play could have helped seal the win for the Falcons, and had the team opened up the season with a win over their hated division rivals, it’s possible the team’s 2013 season would have been a completely different track than the one that led to a 4-12 finish.
The positive for Moore is that there are plenty of reasons to believe a rebound season in 2014 is inevitable.