View Full Version : Fail safe: Identifying the league's best safety tandems

tony hipchest
07-01-2009, 08:48 PM
this article perfectly illustrates how important ryan clark is to our defense. it also illustrates how good chris hope (who had more tackles than the likes of b. sanders, reed, wilson, and polamalu his first year with the titans) was and is. it also reminds how good and fortunate we are to have had players like shell, perry, lake, polamalu, hope, clark, and even woodson and townsend who can easilly make the transition, throughout the years.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story?id=09000d5d8110f0c4&template=without-video-with-comments&confirm=trueThere's no argument here that the league is quarterback driven, but in turn, signal-callers are often influenced by safety play.

Safeties impact a quarterback's decisions with the looks they give, the disguises they present and the plays they make. As one successful offensive coordinator said to me, "You can always go over the front seven if you have to, but those damn safeties can't be avoided."

Having one quality safety helps, but two is a luxury. When you look at the teams with the best safety tandems, it points to some of the best teams in the NFL.

It doesn't matter whether your favorite team runs a 3-4 defensive front or a 4-3, there are still always two safeties on the field, and they must be compatible for the quarterback to feel stressed. "Compatible" is defined as a "matched set or mixable," and the ability for two safeties to mix coverage looks and complement each other is a prerequisite for great production.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher once told me that the matchup situations safeties face with vertical-threat tight ends and multiple wide receiver sets have forced teams to change how they view the position. The league now looks for safeties with better corner skills, and that usually means smaller, faster athletes who tend to break down from the physical pounding week to week.

A "matched" set of safeties used to mean a strong and a free safety. One of them would operate more like a linebacker in the box most of the time, while the other would handle the deep middle of the field. But offenses got smart and adjusted. We all witnessed the struggles that safety Roy Williams had with the Dallas Cowboys over the past few years. Thatís why versatility is needed in the defensive backfield.

A matched tandem in 2009 means two safeties capable of playing half-field coverage, with either one being able to drop into the box for run support or handling deep middle coverage. Either safety should also be comfortable lining up on a wide receiver or a fast tight end. It's too easy for smart quarterbacks to come to the line of scrimmage and have a plan of attack when they don't see a versatile safety tandem on the opposing side.

In judging the best safety tandems, there is a high standard: 150 tackles, 20 passes defensed and eight interceptions.

[*click link for chart that clearly shows steelers safeties kick ass and dominate all others*]

By the numbers, Tennessee, Baltimore and Pittsburgh had the top three safety tandems in the league last year. All three teams made the playoffs, they combined for a 36-12 regular-season mark and the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII.

interesting is that our strong safety (troy) led all listed in passes defended and 2nd in interceptions, while our free safety led all in tackles and was known for laying the wood. clark only had 1 int, and 6 PDef. this shows the "matched tandem" kirwan speaks of.

personally i think clark has outplayed what the steelers will be able to afford. he is deserving of a huge payday. glad to hear they are trying to work something out with him though.

Men of Steel
07-01-2009, 11:55 PM
well we can all just hope we work out a deal with clark... a true diamond in the rough.... and very under the radar... up until last year... at this point no one can really take either his or troys spot on the depth chart... T Carter is gettin a lil old... and not too confident on the young guys takin over just yet..... KEEP CLARK IN BLACK AND GOLD !!!!!

07-03-2009, 05:36 AM
This informative article illustrates why the FO is concentrating on getting Clark signed long term now instead of focusing on Miller. I just watched some highlights of plays last year with the "tandem" in mind and it showed clearly that Clark and Troy compliment each other very well. Very good communication with each other. We need him on board!

Galax Steeler
07-03-2009, 05:43 AM
I would say without a doubt that Clark will be in Black and Gold again. Troy and Ryan work well together they know what each other is going to do. Ryan also is able to let Troy roam around and confuse the quarterback. It is like peanut butter and jelly you can't have one without the other.

07-03-2009, 07:57 AM
Good read Tony. :drink:

I believe our safety tandem of Troy and Clark are one of the best currently in the league. They fit together like hand and glove. Let's hope the Steelers FO sees it that way and is able to keep the "Terrible Two" together. :hope: