The safety position was definitely in flux during the 2010 season. When the Panthers made the unpopular decision to trade fan favorite (and CSR poster) Chris Harris to the Chicago Bears for Jamar Williams during the preseason it was a hard pill to swallow, one made even harder by Williams who has yet to make an impact for Carolina at linebacker. In hindsight the move gave us two clear indications on what Marty Hurney wanted to do with his roster, and highlights the youth movement that was forced on the Panthers last season.
The organization really like the two players they have at the safety positions. Both Sherrod Martin and Charles Godfrey bring different things to the table, but both excel at playing the ball in the air, even if they aren't the most accomplished tacklers we could have in the secondary.
Today we'll look at Martin and Godfrey... after the jump
Sherrod Martin, FS
2010 Statistics: 85 tackles, 5 PDef, 1 INT, 2 FF
I feel Martin deserves a good amount of praise for adapting to being the starting FS in just his second NFL season, but that doesn't mean he was the perfect player. He's still learning to be more instinctive, especially on passing downs, but what may surprise you is just how good Sherrod Martin was in run support.
It's easy to throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to run stopping in the secondary, but according to Football Outsiders advanced tracking Martin was 13th in the NFL among FS with a 54% stop rate on run plays involving him . Martin was also 16th in the NFL among all FS with a 44% stop rate on all plays. However, the basic tenets of playing FS mean that he needs to play the ball better in the air and his 34% stop, 37th in the league performance just isn't good enough in this area.
Ultimately, the fact Martin was middle of the NFL in just his second season should resonate with fans when it comes to his future at the position, and as such I feel he deserves an 'above average' grade.
Letter grade: B
Charles Godfrey, SS
2010 Statistics: 84 tackles, 8 PDef, 5 INT, 1 FF
Getting 5 INTs at the safety position is an impressive total. It's the kind of number that gets you named to a Pro Bowl, and that's just what happened to Charles Godfrey in 2010. However, when you break down the numbers he was far from the most successful safety on his team, let alone the NFL.
Again relying on Football Outsiders' advanced tracking we see a player who struggled in both phases of the game on a regular basis. His overall stop rate was 38% which equates to 28th in the NFL at SS, furthermore he struggled against both the pass (19th in the league) and the run (53rd in the league). It's that second number, against the run, which shows just how much of a liability Charles Godfrey is on running downs. A stop rate of just 35% is abysmal for the safety position relied on to bring down runners.
In the end the interceptions were impressive, but really, if you spend any amount of time really watching Carolina Panthers football in 2010 you'll know he was definitely not a Pro Bowl caliber SS. Many of those interceptions were 'right place, right time' plays, rather than really anticipating the ball in the air. Sure, it's important to be opportunistic, but his reward did not match his play in this case.
Letter grade: D
The answer is staring the organization in the face, and I hope it's a move Coach McDermott makes... swap the two players. Sure, Sherrod Martin is a smaller player, but he plays far bigger on running downs that Godfrey. Conversely, Godfrey does have a knack for being opportunistic in the passing game, so why not move him to FS where he can use those skills more readily?
The safety position was yet another facet to the Panthers' team what was mismanaged in 2010. Surely coaches could have seen Godfrey's issues against the run, Lord knows we did at home. If this move is made the Panthers have a reliable safety tandem for a long time, but they have to switch their roles to get the most out of both players.
Overall Grade: C