When the Falcons re-signed Thomas DeCoud during the offseason, it became clear that Atlanta is hitching its back line of defense to DeCoud, a starter since 2009, and William Moore for the foreseeable future.
After a down year in 2010 that saw DeCoud bring down only one interception, the 2008 third-round draft pick bounced back with a four interception effort last season. Secondary coach Tim Lewis said over the weekend that he feels like DeCoud took major strides during last season and has shown an ability to continue to grow.
"He had a bunch of tackles for us," Lewis said. "He continues to make all the calls back there for the secondary, getting people lined up. He does a fantastic job with that type of thing. He's a smart guy and athletic. He was better this past year than he was my first year here."
Lewis' first season as a coach with the Falcons was in 2010. He's banking on continued development from DeCoud as the signal caller of the defensive backs and he knows it's still a work in progress. Entering his fourth season, DeCoud, according to Lewis, needs to continue to find the comfort level with that role on the defense in tandem with making plays on the ball.
"He makes calls, he gets people lined up," Lewis said. "The more comfortable he is on the back end getting people lined up, he can get himself lined up faster and see the ball faster and make more plays on the ball."
As the comfort comes, so will the recognition for what DeCoud is capable of. Lewis said making more plays is what they want from him and if he can do that, "get his hands on some balls," the league will recognize DeCoud as one of the better young safeties around.
DeCoud's defensive backfield partner, Moore, struggled with some injuries last season, but his development track is still going in the right direction. An injury-filled rookie season saw Moore only play in two games, but once he stepped into the starting lineup in 2010, he started making plays and had five interceptions. Though last season was a step back statistic-wise for Moore, Lewis thinks the sky is the limit for the strong safety. He's especially excited about what a healthy Moore can bring to new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's scheme.
"He looks good right now this offseason," Lewis said. "He's ready to roll. He's learning a new system, as we all are. I think it's going to benefit him. This system will aid William. You'll see him more often that you have in the past."