In the first quarter of last season's home tilt against the Washington Redskins, Donovan McNabb and Co. were driving on the Bears' defense. After a 10-yard holding penalty, the Redskins lined up for a 1st and 20 at the Chicago 32-yard line.
Washington deployed three receivers, two to McNabb's left. The Bears countered with a nickel formation. CB D.J. Moore lined up five-yards deep and to the inside of the slot receiver. Yet just before the snap, he slid up to the line of scrimmage until he was just outside DE Israel Idonije.
At the snap, McNabb turned and faked an off-tackle right handoff. The entire offensive line sealed to the right side, leaving the backside wide open. Moore blitzed off the back edge and was unblocked. He got his hands on the quarterback immediately after the play fake. McNabb spun and tried to get rid of the pass, but Idonije put his hands up and tipped the ball in the air. Moore released McNabb and raced under the ball to make the interception. He then scampered untouched 54 yards for the touchdown.
Due to Jay Cutler's four second-half interceptions the Bears went on to lose that game, but on this play D.J. Moore was outstanding. His timing in getting up to the line just before the ball snapped was perfect. As such, the Redskins' offense didn't account for him and he came through unblocked. Yet not only did he knock McNabb down and force a tipped pass, but he was aware enough to get under the ball for the interception.
CB D.J. Moore
Last season Moore proved he was well worth the fourth-round pick Chicago used on him in 2009. He only played in three games as a rookie but was given a chance in 2010 to play a more prominent role. Zack Bowman, after failing as a starter, was replaced early in the season by Tim Jennings, giving Moore the opportunity to play nickelback. He responded by intercepting two Tony Romo passes in the Week 2 win over the Cowboys, firmly entrenching himself as the third cornerback.
He finished the season with 42 tackles, four interceptions, eight passes defended, a sack and a forced fumble. He also added 10 tackles in the playoffs.
Moore's play in the secondary was a pleasant surprise for a unit that finished 13th against the pass in 2010. Yet he is arguably even more valuable as a blitzer. Pro Football Focus has created an analytical tool to decipher which cornerbacks were most effective when blitzing last season. Players must have blitzed 30 times to qualify. Pressure percentage is formulated by dividing the number of total blitzes by the number of QB disruptions (sacks, hits and pressures).
Of the 49 corners that qualified for the list, Moore ranked sixth overall, with 25 percent of his blitzes turning into some form of quarterback pressure. Kansas City's Eric Berry had the highest pressure rating at 34 percent. Moore was third best for NFC corners and No. 1 among NFC-North blitzers.
Is Moore the best cornerback in the NFC North in terms of blitzing? Green Bay fans would have something to say about that, as Charles Woodson has made a living out of pressuring the QB. Yet while Moore's blitzes may not be as impactful as Woodson's, he is more efficient when given the opportunity. Woodson had more than twice as many blitzes than Moore last year, yet his efficiency rating was only 15 percent.
This isn't scientific data but it does give us a better idea of Moore's value to the Bears going forward. He's about to enter his third season in the NFL as the team's nickelback. No one is really sure if Tim Jennings is the answer as a starter and the odds of Charles Tillman moving to safety get better every year. It would seem Moore could be in line for one of the starting positions relatively soon.
Yet I'm not sure the Bears' coaching staff is considering him right now as a starter, not because he hasn't earned it, but because of his effectiveness in blitzing from the slot. Bears fans need only look back to a similar player, Ricky Manning Jr., who was great in the slot but miserable out wide. A good nickelback is a valuable piece to any defense, which makes one believe Moore will be a fixture in that position for the foreseeable future.
This makes it all the more likely Jerry Angelo will be looking for a starting cornerback early in the upcoming draft – most likely in the first three rounds.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.