Diamond in the rough?

Free agent tight end Evan Moore improving his odds of making final roster, says Packer Report's Tyler Dunne

Evan Moore doesn't know what all of the fuss is about.

The undrafted tight end runs his routes crisply with a knee-high stride. He makes hard cuts, flashes his hands immediately and catches the ball away from his body.

As a starting wide receiver in college such fluidness was expected. As an undrafted tight end in the pros it has players and coaches buzzing.

Through last week's minicamp there were plenty of double-takes fired in Moore's direction.

"No one really has any expectations, so anything you do is a big plus," Moore said. "I haven't experienced that since my freshman year in college. Here you make a play and people say, ‘Hey man that's an unbelievable play,' and I say, ‘That's what I always do.' It's kind of nice to be the underdog."

In late April, Moore, a Stanford grad, expected to be drafted ... as a wide receiver. Neither happened. Teams were scared off by Moore's injury history, which included a season-ending dislocated hip and a stress fracture in his foot.

But he's fully healthy now. Moore said he doesn't even know where the Packers' training camp is located. And he's in a great situation to make a realistic run at a roster spot. Six tight ends are on the Packers' roster. Other than starter Donald Lee, nobody in the lot possesses better pure receiving skills than the towering 6-foot-6, 240-pound Moore, who also played two years of basketball at Stanford.

Still, it's been a "big adjustment," Moore admitted. Instead of reading cornerbacks and safeties, Moore is pinpointing linemen and linebackers at the line and blocking behemoths with 50 pounds on him is a major hurdle he'll cross five weeks from now.

But while Moore is learning a completely new position on-the-fly, basic pass-catching skills are engrained in him. And he expects nothing less.

While his chief competition for the No. 3 tight end job, Tory Humphrey, dropped several intermediate passes during minicamp, Moore was a vacuum. On one play last Wednesday, quarterback Matt Flynn looked left, turned right and hit Evan Moore slicing down the seam for a big gain. Moore caught an identical pass from Brian Brohm the previous day in practice.

"I like to think that's just a play that I make," Moore said. "They haven't seen that here yet, so they were hyped about it. I'll relish that role."

Moore started at wideout from the get-go at Stanford. While playing for dismal teams, he was often Trent Edwards' favorite target. In fact, Moore and the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback are "like brothers."

In his '04 sophomore year with the Cardinal, Moore caught 39 passes for 616 yards and six touchdowns. A hip injury sidelined Moore for all but one game in '05. He was rendered to a part-time role in '06 after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot and caught just 14 passes in eight games. But as a senior, Moore returned to form with 39 catches for 481 yards and one TD.

Injuries aren't an issue anymore and Moore has already caught the eye of Green Bay's new starting quarterback.

"He's made some nice plays for us," Aaron Rodgers said. "He's in a tough spot. He's got some guys in front of him with a lot of talent, but he just needs to keep making plays and he'll be where he needs to be."

Rodgers said Moore reminds him of Garrett Cross, who he threw passes to at junior college, the University of California and briefly in minicamps of his rookie season with the Packers.

"(Evan) is a tight end with the same body type that can run and catch like Garrett," Rodgers said. "He's done a nice job picking it up mentally, and physically he's got all the tools. His biggest transition – and I've seen guys who've made position changes like this – is going to be blocking. It's going to be taking on 270-pound defensive ends who have good leverage."

So there was Moore waiting in line during a simple blocking drill at Tuesday's practice. The tight ends needed to explode out of their stance and attack the outside "shoulder" of a pad. As the other tight ends waited idly, Moore went through the motions of the drill, simulating his first step out of the stance. Again and again.

Fundamental tight end nuances, such as a three-point stance are foreign to him. The OTAs and minicamp helped, but Moore isn't an overnight miracle. The potential needs polishing.

"It's only been three-and-a-half weeks," Moore said. "And while I do have high expectations for myself, I'm not going to be unrealistic and think I can pick this up in a month. It's going to take a little bit of time to get comfortable doing this kind of stuff."

General manager Ted Thompson constantly preaches that the "best football players" make the team. Number-crunching at each position is rare. Hence, in 2006, four tight ends earned roster spots. Last season? Two. Now with a wide-open field behind Lee, Moore is playing with a "nothing to lose" attitude – a sensation he said he hasn't felt since his freshman year in college.

Equal opportunity advancement sure is an effective stress-reliever.

Evan Moore made 39 catches for 481 yards and one
TD as a senior last year at Stanford.

"You try to only focus at what is at hand and that is continuing to learn. But in the back of your mind, yeah, you want to be here all year long," he said. "So hearing that it's not all about numbers and that it's about the players is encouraging. But the only way you're going to reach that goal is by taking it one day at a time."

When Moore first arrived in Green Bay at the end of the first week of OTAs, he walked into a buzzsaw. Moore didn't even know what a defensive front was, and he was the last of the six tight ends to join. But now Moore says he's comfortable with any play or package thrown at him – the product of a "good memory" and that glossy Stanford degree ("That helps a bit," Moore laughed).

The bulk and strength needed at the tight end position is an automatic setback for Moore. He's 13 pounds less than Humphrey, eight less than third-round pick Jermichael Finley, 27 less than Joey Haynos and 18 less than Mike Peterson.

But as Moore caught an array of passes from Matt Flynn, the same guy he trained with in Florida for two months in preparation for the Combine, it's obvious that his ticket to the NFL is making plays downfield.

Something as natural as snatching the ball out the air, rather than swallowing it into his stomach.

"That's something I always take pride in," Moore said. "For some reason that's something that catches peoples' eyes."

You can bet those eyes will widen when the pads are strapped on in five weeks.

Packer Report correspondent Tyler Dunne is a student at Syracuse University and also an intern this summer at the Shawano (Wis.) Leader.

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