Bears' Moore not short of confidence
BOURBONNAIS — The Bears' 5-foot-9 nickel cornerback D.J. Moore is short in stature but long on confidence — maybe too long.
A fourth-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2009, Moore plays a valuable role in the Bears' defense as the fifth defensive back (the nickel), replacing a linebacker in passing situations.
But Moore believes he's capable of more — much more.
"I just play nickel," he says with an air of resignation. "(But) I look out on the field, and you see 11 starters on offense, 11 starters on defense and you feel like, 'Man, I can't be (only) the 23rd-best player on the team.'"
When it's pointed out to Moore, an All-American at Vandy, that being the 23rd-best player on an NFL is a commendable accomplishment, he's unimpressed.
"Yeah," he said, "but when you're (better than) the 23rd-best player, it's just frustrating."
Wide receiver Earl Bennett, Moore's teammate with the Bears the past three years and for two years at Vanderbilt, calls Moore the best nickel in the league.
"Best player, Earl," Moore corrects. "This is crazy."
Bears defensive backs coach Jon Hoke is familiar with Moore's self-assuredness. So, when he's asked about the 25-year-old's belief that he should be in the starting lineup, Hoke can't hide a wry smile.
"D.J. lacks confidence in nothing," Hoke said. "So whatever he thinks, it doesn't surprise me."
Moore is a guy who thinks he can do anything on a football field, and he pretty much did at Vanderbilt. He played cornerback, wide receiver, running back, quarterback, punt returner and kickoff returner.
What Hoke thinks is that Moore is playing exactly where he should be.
"He has good instincts," Hoke said. "He's more quick than fast — not that he's slow. He has a good feel for the game underneath. Size-wise, it suits him better.
"You don't want to him to go out and play on the edge and all of a sudden you've got to play Brandon Marshall and those types of guys. That would be a struggle."
Maybe so, but you couldn't get Moore to admit it's a struggle he would lose, even against a 6-4, 230-pound wide receiver.
As a rookie Moore struggled to get any playing time, barely seeing the field long enough in three games to get his uniform dirty.
"It was really frustrating," said Moore, a three-time all-state high school basketball player and state high-jump champion at Spartanburg (S.C.) High School.
"I put a lot on myself. I knew I was good coming out of college, but it's just a process. If you're not a first- or second-round draft pick, you may not get looked at. (Finally, they say) 'Sooner or later we've got to try to put him in and see what he can do.'"
When Moore got his chance in 2010, he picked off 4 passes and returned them 95 yards, including a 54-yard TD. He picked off 4 more passes last season and finished seventh on the team with 60 tackles.
The 180-pound Moore clearly has no problem sticking his nose in the action, even though he's always at a weight disadvantage. But, again, that isn't the way he sees it.
"Regardless of size, I'm one of the best guys on the team," he said. "It's not a question of whether (someone) is good enough. Regardless of size, some guys are just better than other guys. If it were based (only) on size, it would just be a game of giants.
"There are a lot of productive guys that are my size, and there are some nonproductive guys that are bigger."
Rookie cornerback Greg McCoy, at 178 pounds, is the only player on the Bears' 90-man training-camp roster who is lighter than Moore, although wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher also weighs 180.
But Moore has explosiveness. He had a 39˝-inch vertical at the 2009 scouting combine, and his quickness sets him apart.
"He's got the quickest first step of anybody on the team," said Bears special-teams coordinator Dave Toub.
How quick does Moore think he is?
"I guess quick enough for people to notice it," he said. "Pretty quick."
Muhammad Ali used to say he was so quick that when he turned the light out at night he was in bed before the room was dark.
"Man, that's fast," Moore said. "I ain't in the bed, but I might be close."
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