Safety play is the most unique of all positions to evaluate. There is nearly an infinite amount of possibilities in how they’re deployed in a modern defense. But in a Gary Patterson defense multiplicity and versatility is the name of the game. There is a ton of pre- and post-snap movement to disguise coverages, and the match-based defense puts a ton of stress on understanding key reads and getting into the correct positional leverage to have a positive rep. And that is the most important thing TCU safety Trevon Moehrig must improve to become the first safety taken in the 2021 NFL Draft.[sv slug=mocksim]
TCU safety Trevon Moehrig has the tools to be the top safety
When he keeps things correct technically and stays patient he can be an elite man coverage safety. There aren’t many players better clicking forward to close on passing lanes than Moehrig. He’s able to smoothly transition from his pedal to drive on a route or ball and possesses instant acceleration. And his hips hinge effortlessly to turn and burn vertically when his eye discipline remains stead on the receiver in true man-to-man coverage.
In the above video, he’s aligned as the deep safety at the bottom of the screen. The slot defender remains in the hook curl zone area of the field and Moehrig is tasked with playing off man. He keeps good positional leverage on the inside shoulder of the receiver and remains in his pedal despite the vertical threat. He does a great job trusting his athleticism and not flipping too early.
His time as a receiver and corner in high school is evident
This is as much about his click-and-close as it is his actual ability to play the football, but it does show that he has a knack for getting his hands on passes. Teammate Ar’Darius Washington intercepted more passes than Moehrig in 2019, but his ball production overall trailed Moehrig’s by 10, and that’s if you don’t count the two fumbles Moehrig forced as well.
Moehrig’s interception in the Purdue game was not dissimilar to the above PBU. He closed on a route going over the middle and ripped the rock right out from the receiver’s hands as they went to the ground. He just has a feel for the ball, and his length helps supplement that ability.
The TCU safety needs to become a stronger finisher
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler listed Moehrig as his top safety over the summer. However, he acknowledged that his ability as a finisher was his biggest area of improvement. “Moehrig isn’t a poor run defender, but he must become more consistent with his take-on and finishing skills.” Respectfully, the first part of that quote may have been a bit understated.
He is a poor tackler. Too often he takes incredibly acute angles in pursuit, whether it be moving to the edges or on the interior. When he squares up to a ball carrier he’s not overwhelmed by their presence, but he struggles to get to that place. His finishing rate is bad because of those poor angles. The above rep isn’t the worst of his catalog of misses but it does show where he struggles.
Although the poor angles and tackling technique is a bit of a concern, they are easily fixable through the ingestion of coaching and practice. What will be more difficult is transforming his body enough to be able to bring the necessary amount of boom to make a difference as a run defender.
In the above clip, he forces a fumble after driving down on a swing pass thrown to 6-foot-2, 200-pound freshman wide receiver Jadon Haselwood. That’s awesome. But watch the hit close. Moehrig absolutely does NOT win that collision, despite being given an ample runway to build momentum to deliver a devastating and legal blow. He gets his head across and makes the play, but if that is 230-pound Najee Harris, Moehrig gets bounced off the turf like a golf ball hitting the fairway of an Open Championship.
Moehrig’s eye discipline and aggression needs sharpening
Before going forward with explaining the above video, we must put out the disclaimer that Moehrig very well may have believed the opposite safety was spinning back to the middle here for deep help. However, this instance is not a one-off. It’s not a two-off, either. Unfortunately, Moehrig suffers from what so many Big-12 back-end defenders suffer from; Getting beat deep consistently.
And as we’ve already discussed, his athleticism isn’t an issue. In the above video, he simply attempts to break on a ball underneath at the sticks and gets beat by a double move. It’s a red mark on the question that is the individual play, but being overly aggressive doesn’t mean he fails the test completely.
This one is unequivocally on Moehrig. He needs to have all of the number two receiver vertically here. There is no other coverage option here. Even with a single-high safety spinning to the middle, there is no excuse here.
He gets out of position here by overcompensating his leverage to the outside shoulder of Devin Duvernay, and then he inexplicably keeps his shoulders square with his eyes to the backfield. But don’t be too upset, because one positive we can take from this rep is that the TCU safety was able to flip his hips late and keep up, if not catch up, to the 4.39 40-yard dash running Texas receiver.
Moehrig could thrive in a less complex system immediately
Even if he does not improve his game in Patterson’s defense, a system that allows him to patrol the middle of the field, the deep half or play straight man-to-man would be ideal for Moehrig. His athleticism, range, and ball skills would allow him to contribute right away in a less complex role.
But if he wants to be truly heralded by all he’ll need to improve above the shoulders and against the run.