The Atlanta Falcons have one of the best young safety combinations in the league in Thomas DeCoud and William Moore. With new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Moore is expected to take on a more featured role. However, with the injury history Moore has, he needs to stay healthy for the Falcons defense to be at its best.
Moore had the best season of his career in the 2010 season with five interceptions, eight pass deflections, one fumble forced and 72 tackles. He also was healthy all 16 games. He did have another good year in the 2011 season, but he was injured for four games.
The biggest showing of what Moore means to the Falcons defense was the Carolina game in Bank of America Stadium. The Falcons started James Sanders that day because Moore was still recovering from injuries and they were down 23-7 at the half after Sanders missed a key tackle and blew a coverage.
Moore came in at the half to relieve Sanders and was tested in the middle of the third quarter with a deep pass over the center of the field. One that he promptly intercepted and returned for 29 yards to give his offense possession of the ball on the Panthers 24-yard line down six at a pivotal moment in the game.
Moore's impact can be seen on that game more than any other because had he not played that game, the Falcons don't win without the interception and momentum swing that came with it. Mike Nolan will be having the Falcons strong safety play more of a rover style role.
Moore was expected to play deep half zone coverage over half the time when he was in the scheme with Brian VanGorder, he won't be expected to do that under Nolan. Nolan is expected to use Moore in a similar fashion to how Troy Polamalu is used in the Steelers defense.
Moore will play more underneath central zones, deep third zones and even blitz when the time calls for it. Moore will be spread all throughout the formation and with Thomas DeCoud back playing center field, Moore will have much more ability to freelance without having to worry about getting toasted.
However, the big key is Moore's health. In his rookie year, the Missouri product had a hamstring injury in the 2009 season and got put on injured reserve after playing just two games. He had a thigh injury in the 2011 season that sidelined him for four games, including two key matchups: one versus New Orleans and one versus Houston.
There is no one on the Falcons roster with the same kind of playmaking talent and ability at the rover role that Moore will be playing. His primary backup will be Shann Schillinger, but there will be an obvious drop off from Moore's Pro Bowl potential to Schillinger's special teams experience.
If he can stay healthy for the entire year, the Falcons could have one of the best safeties in the NFL in the 2012 season in William Moore. He will be a key cog and playmaker for the Falcons defense, but he has to stay healthy in order for the Falcons defense to be top notch and for him to receive Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career.
All stats courtesy NFL.com