Why Rahim Moore Would Be Ideal Fit at Free Safety for Chicago Bears

Matt Eurich@@MattEurichAnalyst IMarch 6, 2015

Sep 14, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos safety Rahim Moore (26) before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

No other position on Chicago's roster over the last decade has had as much turnover as the free safety position, but the Bears may be able to finally find a solution when free agency officially opens on March 10.

Even though New England's Devin McCourty will be the best safety on the market, Denver's Rahim Moore appears to be an ideal fit at free safety for the Bears. 

Taken in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Broncos, Moore has started 48 games in his career and has registered 196 tackles, one sack, 20 pass deflections and eight interceptions, including four last season.

He started seven games his rookie season before taking over the starting free safety spot in 2012. Unfortunately for Moore, he is best known for his blunder against the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs in January 2013.

With less than one minute remaining in the game, the Broncos were sitting with a seven-point lead when Moore gave up a 70-yard touchdown catch to Jacoby Jones. The touchdown helped the Ravens tie the game, and Baltimore eventually came away with a victory in overtime.

Moore (26) blamed himself for Denver's 2013 playoff loss after giving up this 70-yard touchdown to Jacoby Jones.
Moore (26) blamed himself for Denver's 2013 playoff loss after giving up this 70-yard touchdown to Jacoby Jones.Jack Dempsey/Associated Press/Associated Press

Following the game, Moore accepted blame for Denver's loss.

"The season ended on me," Moore said, via The Denver Post. "Next time the opportunity comes, I will make the play. I'm sorry the way the season ended. It ended on me, which I never expected."

He looked to bounce back in 2013 but was sidelined for part of the year after it was discovered he had compartment syndrome.

Joan Neisen of MMQB.com explained the condition, writing:

Compartment syndrome is a rare condition that occurs when pressure builds to extreme levels within muscles. In layman’s terms, swelling occurs, trapping excessive pressure in compartments that we all have in our muscles, which are contained by strong connective tissue called fascia and have a finite amount of room to expand. As blood keeps flowing in and the flow out decreases, pressure mounts, and the surrounding area is deprived of nourishment. Cells die off as the blood flow becomes restricted or cut off entirely, damaging or even killing the affected muscles.

Moore was rushed to the hospital in late November 2013 and underwent surgery to release the pressure that had been building up in his leg. 

He missed the remainder of the season but worked hard to get himself back into shape for the 2014 season.

“I didn’t know if I would ever walk again,” Moore said, via Neisen. “I didn’t know if I would ever be the Rahim that I know I can be, and also be able to have the footwork and be swift and things like that. The Lord definitely restored me.”

He started all 16 games last season and was praised by former Broncos head coachnow current Bears head coachJohn Fox for bouncing back from all the adversity he had suffered since the playoff loss to Baltimore.

John Fox's connection to Moore may help the Bears land the 25-year-old free safety in free agency.
John Fox's connection to Moore may help the Bears land the 25-year-old free safety in free agency.LM Otero/Associated Press

"He's done a tremendous job," Fox said about Moore prior to Denver's playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts this past January, via Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. "You bring up (his bouncing back) from that particular play (against Baltimore) and it speaks a lot for the kind of young man and human being he is, as well as a football player. He's had a very good season."

While Moore's ability to bounce back from adversity is a plus, what he can do on the football field is why he will be an attractive option for Chicago.

The Broncos liked to use Moore as a single-high safety because of his range and athleticism. He is not the fastest guy on the field, but he makes good breaks on the ball and has the ability to be a playmaker.

His playmaking ability was on display versus the San Diego Chargers in Week 8 this past season.

Late in the fourth quarter, Moore lined up at free safety in Denver's base 4-3 defense before dropping back as the single-high safety.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers tried to push the ball down the field to receiver Malcom Floyd, but Moore made a terrific break on the ball and was able to come away with the interception.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

He struggled on a similar play earlier in the game, but Fox was proud of how Moore fought back and came away with the interception.

"Earlier in the game, he did not play a deep ball exactly how you'd school it. It was very encouraging as far as, 'OK, look don't panic,'" Fox said after the game, via Troy Renck of The Denver Post. "It was picture-perfect how he did the nice one. He was excited, and I was excited when I went over to see him."

While he works well in space when given the freedom to roam, he also does well when asked to be the primary man in coverage. Pro Football Focus gave him a plus-4.2 pass coverage grade for the 2014 season, and he finished sixth in coverage snaps per reception among safeties with 40.5, meaning he allowed only one reception in every 40-plus snaps in which he was the primary man in coverage.

Those coverage skills would come in handy in Chicago's new defense after the team announced at the NFL Scouting Combine last month it was going to be making the transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense.

The Bears hired Vic Fangio to run their new defense, and even though his defense is based off creating confusion and mismatches with the front seven, the safety position plays a pivotal role.

Fangio likes his safeties to be interchangeable, but he tends to use the strong safety up in the box with a single-high safety dropped back in coverage. Additionally, he likes to create confusion with his defensive backs, often showing man coverage before dropping into zone. The play above with Moore is an example of how his athleticism allows him to slide out of a base look into a single-high safety look. 

Eric Reid played free safety for Fangio in San Francisco last season, and he showed in Week 1 versus the Dallas Cowboys what Fangio expects from the free safety position.

The 49ers were lined up in their base 3-4 defense with Reid playing eight to nine yards off the line of scrimmage. He initially made a break toward the line of scrimmage when it looked like DeMarco Murray was going to be receiving the handoff from quarterback Tony Romo.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Once Reid realized the Cowboys were running play action, he seamlessly flipped his hips and worked his way back into coverage.  

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

He positioned himself between Romo and the receiver and was able to come away with the interception. 

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Moore has the same ability to flip his hips and make a break on the ball, and he should fit well in Fangio's system. He will need to improve against the run, but Thomas Maney of Pro Football Focus thinks Moore has shown enough in the past to prove he can play well versus the run.

"Run defense is a question mark, as he graded at -3.3 there in 2014, with missed tackles one of the main issues," Maney wrote. "However, he’s shown ability defending the run before, as his 2012 season indicates."

According to Pro Football Focus, Moore graded out with a plus-3.9 run grade in 2012. He had 33 stops in 375 snaps against the run that season but only had 16 stops in 318 run snaps last year.

Moore is only 25 years old, and it is rare for guys with his talent to hit the open market at his age. While he may be young, he has plenty of experience and has shown he can fight through adversity. If he can improve versus the run, his athleticism and range makes him an ideal fit in Chicago's new defense under Fangio.

 

Statistical information courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.

Matt Eurich is an NFL/Chicago Bears Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

Follow @MattEurich

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