Last year, in the 5th round, the Raiders took a chance on a talented but inconsistent wide receiver out of Tennessee named Denarius Moore. Moore had had some success in college but changes in coaching had caused him to be less productive in his later years, which contributed to his fall to the fifth round.
From the very start of camp, he was the talk of Raider fans and media as well as occasioning comment from many of the players and coaches for his speed, sure hands and acrobatic receptions.
I wanted to get a good idea of Moore's strengths and weaknesses so I went to multiple games from last season to see what I could find.
Usually for a players Tale of the Tape I try to watch 2-3 games if the player is a starter because that usually gives me a good idea of what that player can do. If the player is a backup, I'll watch more to get a larger sample size but I'll go through the game logs and watch plays that the player is in, not every play.
Moore proved to be somewhat difficult, however, so I ended up watching 5 games of his film. I watched 3 games with Jason Campbell as the QB - namely weeks 2, against Buffalo, 3, against the Jets & 4 against New England - and then 2 with Palmer under center - weeks 10 & 11, against San Diego and Minnesota, respectively.
The primary reason that Moore's Tale of the Tape was more difficult than many others is that he does so many things well. I try very hard to find strengths and weaknesses on the players I review and an all positive tape-review isn't accurate. Therefore it was important to watch a large sample size of plays to get as good an idea of what Moore can do as a player.
First, what jumps out with Moore is his natural receiving ability. He is a much more natural receiver than anyone the Raiders have had for some time. He gets into routes smoothly and has great hands. He positions his body well with an understanding of both the cornerback and the ball. These sound simple but they are rare gifts.
As TFDS has talked about, the Raiders are going to transition to an offense in which receivers must show the ability to bring down the ball. They are much less likely to go vertical as consistently as Hue Jackson did and so each pass must be received for positive yardage.
Moore showed exceptional ability to catch the ball. There was one deep reception in which it looked like Jason Campbell had overthrown Moore but he reached out at the last moment and caught the back-end nose of the football and was able to keep ahold of it to the grass for a long gain. It was an impressive display of hand eye coordination and it emphasizes what makes Moore have great potential - he possesses the tools to be able to excel as a primary wide receiver.
A wide receiver's timing is an underrated attribute as well. Timing counts for a lot with receivers. Timing is not only important to make sure that the receiver is where he needs to be for some passes that may be thrown before he makes his cut as we discuss in the West Coast Offense article with the link above, but also a receiver needs to be able to time his jumps to maximize his body's length and pluck the ball out of the air. Moore has natural timing and was consistently able to time his body to get between a cornerback and safety in double-covered situations and come down with tricky receptions.
Moore shows a good understanding of the many nuances for the position. For example, he drives back to the ball instead of waiting for it to come to him.
Jackson, as offensive player-caller as well as head coach, used Moore running 9 routes a lot (see this route tree if you're unclear what the 9 route is) and many receivers run 9 routes too close to the edge which limits their effectiveness. X Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is guilty of running his 9 routes too close to the sideline where the cornerback can effectively ride his inside hip and the quarterback has an extremely limited window in which to throw.
Moore on the other hand was good about running his 9 routes at least 3 yards away from the sideline. This gives the quarterback a 3 yard window to the outside shoulder of the wide receiver where he can put the ball and, if he has enough loft on it, the cornerback is unable to make a play on the pass.
Moore didn't always run perfect routes, of course. There were some instances in which he seemed to concentrate too much on trying to juke or fool the cornerback and not enough on pressing down the field and it ruined the timing with the quarterback who has to release the ball earlier than the receiver is open and throw to a point. In these instances, Moore wasn't as far down field as the quarterback was expecting and the pass was too long for him.
However, in general, he ran very crisp, clean routes and was a great surprise as a rookie.
As good as Moore was on the field - and he was the best wide receiver out there for the Raiders regardless that DHB had more receptions - he isn't without questions coming into his sophomore year.
First, for some reason or reasons he was remarkably quiet at points last season. There were times that he didn't get a pass thrown his way for a quarter or more, even later in the season when he had established himself as a capable offensive weapon. I really was looking for reasons on this and, while there are several possibilities, I have no one solid answer. It could be that Hue was trying to out-smart the opponent by spreading the ball around. It could be that Palmer didn't think that he was open and went to another read. It didn't appear that the other team had rolled too much coverage Moore's way and he definitely was open for many of the plays, but he didn't get the ball thrown his way, regardless.
There's also the question of what effect, if any, the offensive change will have on him. Knapp's offense is much less about stretching the field vertically every play and will rely much more on crossing routes and slants. Will Moore's body be able to hold up with an increased chance of a linebacker or safety hitting him hard over the middle? He has no real injury concerns so it seems like he will be fine, but until the games are played it's still a concern.
To that end, it seems likely that the strength and conditioning staff will try to add some bulk to him, especially in his upper body. Moore is very fit but is also fairly lean and if he can bulk up a bit without losing speed, it will be to his advantage.
One area that an increased upper body will definitely assist in is his run blocking abilities. He was not a factor in the run game as much as some other, bigger wide receivers like Heyward-Bey and the Raiders will be running much more this year. They will need him to show that he can effectively seal off his man from the play.
Moore will be playing the Z WR or flanker position. This means that he is the receiver that is off the line. The X receiver, most likely Heyward-Bey, is on the line of scrimmage. X receivers are much more likely to be hit at the line by the opposing cornerback. The Z receiver is less likely because he is back from the line and, therefore, the cornerback isn't as able to get as close to jam him right at the snap.
Another question is whether oore can carry the load as a primary receiver, a role he didn't have to perform last year. In fact, despite his great abilities he never had more than 5 receptions in any game last season. He will need to take a step forward and be ready for many more passes this year with an entire off-season to prepare and with Palmer and he already working on their chemistry together.
Overall, Raider Nation should be very excited about Moore as a prospect. It seems very likely that he'll be able to exceed his numbers from last season and provide the Raiders offense a multi-talented weapon that can advance the ball at all levels of the field - including reverses.
For more Raiders news and analysis, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews