Data Nerd: In-Depth Look at Our Safeties

The Safety position in the NFL is dynamic. The player is expected to play coverage or stop the run, reading and adapting to the offense at all times. In that regard, we have many key stats to look at when evaluating performance, but it's also a position where the numbers don't tell the whole story. For this data review, I've also watched the Defense in each game, looking to fill the gaps.

First, I want to jump into the PFF grades, then break down some key statistics to see what drives these ratings. Let's look now at the pass coverage:

Pass Defense Rating
Safety Week1 Week2 Week3 Week4 Week5 Week7 Avg 2012 Avg
William Moore 0.1 0.9 2.1 -1.0 -0.6 2.3 0.6 0.2
Thomas DeCoud -1.4 -1.1 -2.4 -0.5 -0.1 0.8 -0.8 0.1

While both Moore and DeCoud graded barely above average for 2012, Moore has shown great improvement in pass coverage, led by impressive showings weeks 3 and 7. DeCoud, on the other hand, has shown a clear decline. As a positive note, we can see an improvement in his ratings over the past 3 weeks. Outside of his failed coverage on a Vincent Jackson touchdown last week, he actually did look good in pass defense. Let's hope that he continues to play better in coverage because it definitely helps.

Now for Run Defense Rating

Run Defense Rating
Safety Week1 Week2 Week3 Week4 Week5 Week7 Avg 2012 Avg
William Moore -0.2 -0.3 0.3 -0.2 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.1
Thomas DeCoud 0.0 0.7 -0.1 -0.2 -0.1 -0.2 0.0 0.0

WillyMo has been consistent in the run game, to say the least. Even though his performance grades aren't flashy, he seems to get the job done when it matters most. DeCoud has also put up consistent numbers, but as i watch game, I see him take bad angles and get dragged for extra yardage on weak arm tackles. I'll dig into this more throughout the analysis.

Overall, WM is ranked 8th and TD ranked 49th out of the 58 safeties (limited based on snaps played). In coverage, they are 10th and 54th, respectively; In run defense, 8th and 41st.


One of the most important qualities in a safety in his ability to finish plays. So how does Atlanta compare to the NFL:

Tackles Per Miss
Team 2012 2013
ATL 4.1 8.1
Best (2012 BUF; 2013 NE) 12.5 11.7
Average 6.3 6.7
Worst (2012 TEN; 2013 WAS) 3.5 3.2

Overall, our safeties have shown improvement in their ability to stop plays when given the chance. They have almost twice the tackles per miss, moving from well below average to above. Here's the breakdown for our players:

Tackles Per Miss
Safety 2012 2013
William Moore 6.4 11.0
Thomas DeCoud 3.3 6.0
Best 33.0 33.0
Average 6.8 7.7
Worst 1.3 2.2

NOTE: limited based on number of snaps played

So in addition to the above, both of our safeties have drastically improved their performance. William Moore is actually posting numbers well above average. He went the first three games without a missed tackle while posting one each game for the last 3 weeks. We should keep an eye on his play to see how it continues.

Looking back through the Miami, NY, and Tampa Bay games, TD has a few plays where he took a horrible angle on the ball carrier. No attempt made, and therefore, no Missed tackle. Also, in the Tampa game, he failed to tackle Vincent Jackson on a 3rd and 16 in the 3rd quarter, which didn't register because Trufant came in and forced a fumble. We all know DeCoud has tackling issues, and while his number show improvement, I think we can all agree that most of his tackling looks weak. In that regard, I wanted to expand on the overall tackling:

Tackles per Game Assists per Game
Safety 2012 2013 2012 2013
William Moore 4.00 5.50 0.7 0.3
Thomas DeCoud 4.31 4.00 0.3 0.8

So this explains some of the story behind DeCoud. His assists per game has more than doubled. Even though he is not registered with a miss, he needs more help closing out, which can also be seen throughout the game by his awkward arm tackles.

To relay some of the positive, I do want to elaborate that DeCoud had 18 combined tackles and assists, with only 1 miss the last three games. Compare that to 11 combined on 3 misses the first three games. It's a small sample size but a marked improvement that we hope can continue.


Let's start by looking at coverage efficiency, which shows the average yards gained per snap in pass coverage:

Yards per Cover Snap
Player 2012 2013
William Moore 1.09 0.70
Thomas DeCoud 0.61 0.80
Best 0.09 -
Average 0.56 0.63
Worst 1.21 1.80

Stats below in parenthesis are [2013 vs 2012].

Again, WM has made significant improvements in his coverage efficiency, shaving almost 36% off his average reception yards allowed per coverage snap. He's actually is allowing a higher completion % (88% vs. 61%), but warranting fewer targets per snap in coverage (7.4% vs. 9.3%) and fewer yards per reception (10.7 vs. 19.4). The majority of his improvement in the latter stat comes from yards after the catch, down from 8.5 to 3.8 yards per reception.

TD posted equally significant changes, but in the wrong direction. The average yards allowed per snap has increase over 30%; Completion % is worse (63% vs 72%); Targets per snap is worse (7.8% vs. 7.3%); Yards per reception is worse (14.2 vs. 13.4). Decoud's average yards after the catch is 6.8 (up from 5.7).

Both of our players have worse than average performance in this category, though Moore has an interception in his name that improves his coverage grades. In light of a this and a post I recently had detailing our turnover woes, let's compare that coverage statistic below:

2012 2013 through Week 7
William Moore 2 4 1 1
Thomas DeCoud 1 6 3 0

I think this really speaks for itself. It's too early to draw a conclusion about Moore, but DeCoud has obviously fallen short. He's a defensive weakness in the red-zone, and is not making as many big plays as last year. I hope he turns that around this weekend with Carson Palmer, who is prone to making some bad decisions. The guy is under pressure on over 40% of his passes. As long as the front 7 can get anywhere close to that pressure, I think DeCoud has a shot of making something happen (assuming our talented young corners don't get there first!).

Other Quick Stats

Run Stopping

PFF measures run stopping % in terms of plays where a Safety lines up within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage. This portrays a more accurate display of stopping efficiency. The NFL average for safeties is 5.3% (5.8% in 2012) of run snaps with a stop made.

William Moore - 6.8% (7.1% in 2012)

Thomas DeCoud - 1.9% (5.1% in 2012)

Here's yet another ding on DeCoud's performance, while Moore has put up similar numbers to last year. Also note that the average for safeties has dropped more significantly than Moore's slight decrease.

Pass Rush

Pass rushing happens infrequently from our safeties, but one of them has done enough to grab the 2nd best rating for the position. The productivity ratings are calculated as a percentage of pass rushes that create pressure. Sacks count as 1 successful play, and hits/hurries count as 75%. The NFL average for safeties is 12.5%.

William Moore is ranked 2nd, with 12 pass rushing plays, registering 1 sack, 1 hit, and 2 hurries. 27.1% grade compared to 25.0% last year when he was also ranked 2nd.

Thomas DeCoud is ranked 23rd, with 9 pass rushing plays, registering no sacks, no hits, and 1 hurry. 8.3% grade compared to 15.4% last year when he was ranked 14th.

Long Plays

In 2012, the Atlanta Defense only allowed 6 passing plays over 40 yards for the entire year. Through 6 games, they already have 6. Both Moore and DeCoud are responsible for one each. The other 4 comes from Robert McClain (Weeks 1, 2 and 4) and Asante Samuel (last week).

Notes & Round-up

I think we all know, without looking at numbers, that DeCoud needs to feel some pressure. Even with the improvements the past few games, his performance fails to give the defense an extra boost. He has shown a dramatic drop in performance compared to last year when he was also being criticized for soft play. I believe it's on the coaches to light a fire and elevate his performance or find someone that can step up. While his tackling has always been an issue, he was able to make big plays to compensate. Those big plays aren't coming this year. It's creating more focus on the rest of his issues and bringing into question his long-term usefulness. While watching games, I could consistently pick out DeCoud's tackling due to him sticking out his arm after coming at an awkward angle, and the ball carrier dragging out extra yards after contact. It's not something you like to see from your last line of defense.

William Moore, on the other hand, is someone I think we can all be proud to call a Falcon. He's not perfect, and we have seen him give up a few big throws, but he's a strong, consistent player that flies all over the field. He has improved dramatically since last year and is becoming a central point of our defense, especially with the injuries to Spoon and Biermann. His coverage is improving, run defense is stout, and he can close out plays with highlight-worthy hits. Moore finished Week 7 with the second highest Safety grade of the week, leading the defense with some of the key plays in the game (sack-fumble and Doug Martin hit for incomplete pass).

What do you think? Can we get something more out of DeCoud, or is it time to flirt elsewhere? How much have you enjoyed watching WIlliam Moore this season?

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>

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