Cornerback of the Future?

Last year's fifth-round pick, Joshua Moore, will be given every opportunity to take control of a starting cornerback position this season. Does he have the talent and desire to make it happen?

When Joshua Moore was a fourth-grader at Markham Elementary School in Pompano Beach. Fla., he wrote a story in his English class where he was drafted by the Chicago Bears as a quarterback and wound up throwing a game-winning touchdown pass in a playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.

When Moore signed his four-year rookie contract last May, that dream became a reality, albeit at a different position. The Bears' 2010 fifth-round pick was a standout cornerback at Kansas State, who entered the draft after his junior season.

Coming into the NFL, Moore was known as a ball-hawking corner with plenty of experience, having started five games as a true freshman. He was declared academically ineligible the following season, but started all 12 games in 2008 and 2009. He registered a team-leading 76 tackles with 12 pass breakups, three interceptions and five tackles-for-loss as a sophomore, and 64 tackles, 11 pass breakups, two interceptions and 4.5 tackles-for-loss as a junior.

At 5-11, 188 pounds, Moore lacks ideal bulk but he plays much more physical than his frame would suggest. As a Wildcat, he demonstrated a strong willingness to come up and support the run. He has the ability to shed blocks and still get to the ballcarrier. His open-field ability to take down runners was above par as well. His aggressiveness in the run game is one of the many reasons the Bears are so high on Moore heading into this season.

He can also hold his own in the pass game, having shown very fluid hips and great closing ability. When the ball is in the air, he's a playmaker, getting the most out of his size to out-fight opposing receivers. He has great field speed and gets out of his back pedal quickly to turn and run with wideouts.

CB Joshua Moore
Justin K. Aller/Getty

In man-to-man coverage, he's stellar, but his awareness in zone coverage is probably the reason he failed to see the field his rookie season last year. At KSU, he was inconsistent when passing off receivers to the deep safeties and was often late coming back to the underneath zone.

Despite his inexperience in zone coverage, the Bears coaching staff has expressed excitement over Moore's ability to contribute in 2011. The fact the front office passed on many talented middle-round cornerbacks in this year's draft says a lot about the team's confidence in Moore's talents going forward.

Charles Tillman will, for the ninth-straight season, occupy one starting cornerback spot this coming season. On the opposite side, Tim Jennings has a tenuous grasp on the starting position and will be challenged by not only Moore, but also Zack Bowman, who will be looking to make up for a failed 2010 season. It's highly likely the Bears open a competition in training camp amongst the three starter candidates, which could be just the opportunity Moore needs to make an impact.

He was able to learn the system for a full season last year. If he has made the proper strides in grasping the intricacies of the Cover 2, he'll have a solid chance at a substantial increase in playing time this year. He may not emerge as the starter in Week 1, but it's not crazy to think he'll play his way into the secondary rotation, possibly overtaking D.J. Moore for the nickelback spot.

The lockout has put a premium on players who are already familiar with a team's system, as any type of pre-season training programs will be severely truncated. This make Moore even more valuable, so much so that Chicago may chose to forego the position completely in free agency. This becomes more likley when one considers the front office's strong desire to see its draft picks succeed.

It's possible Moore may never again have an opportunity like the one that will be staring him in the face come training camp. If he embraces the challenge, he could mold into Tillman's long-term replacement.

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