Everything started great for Chicago Bears cornerback D.J. Moore this year. After two seasons as the team's starting nickelbck, Moore had a strong camp and beat out newcomer Kelvin Hayden to retain his position.
Things went downhill from there.
Moore led the team in interceptions in 2011 (4) and, according to Pro Football Focus, did not allow a single touchdown all season. Yet this year, he allowed two touchdowns in Chicago's first three contests and was sketchy in both coverage and against the run during the first half of the campaign.
"If your play isn't exactly what we think it should be, then you open the door for someone else to get an opportunity," said Lovie Smith. "What you have to do is make plays. Simple as that."
Moore's poor play opened the door for Hayden, who stepped in and claimed the nickelback gig in Week 9. Since then, Moore has played in just two games and was a healthy scratch in two contests.
CB D.J. Moore
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY Sports
"I just think it's wrong, honestly," Moore said of Cutler the week following the Packers loss. "I would feel some kind of way if he were to do me like that and make it seem like 'well, the reason that I'm having a bad game is because what you're doing' and not me taking accountability for myself because I'm throwing these types of passes or doing this type of read.
"So it's a tough situation. When you act like that with your own teammates on the sideline, it's just something different that you normally wouldn't do. So you might say it in the locker room or something, but to do it like he did it, it's just weird."
Publicly, Smith said he was fine with Moore's comments. Behind closed doors, Moore was reprimanded for throwing a teammate under the bus. Moore then turned around and almost immediately told a reporter that Smith chewed him out. Since then, Moore has been buried in his coach's doghouse.
This week though, the Bears will have no choice but to put Moore back on the field. Starting cornerback Tim Jennings has been ruled out for the Vikings contest. Hayden will move outside into the starting role and Moore will move back into his familiar nickelback position.
"It's all based on performance on the football field," said Smith. "D.J. is a pro. When he did take a step back, he was doing everything he possibly could behind the scenes to help this team. He's a good player. Hopefully, he'll get another shot."
For his part, Moore never lost confidence in his abilities.
"The whole situation is kind of funny to me. I never took it as another guy was better than me. That's never the case," Moore said. "I just know I'm good enough to play. I look forward to showing that."
Moore's contract is up after this season and, due to a rough final year in Chicago, it's unlikely he'll re-sign with the Bears. Which means the next four games will serve as his last chance to build some good game film heading into free agency, while also helping the Bears make a push for the playoffs.
"We're very confident in him," said coordinator Rod Marinelli. "He's been practicing extremely well. We expect a great performance from him."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.