Adding Impact Players

When the Patriots signed a pair of defensive linemen last week, it made sense, but fans kept asking about why the Patriots would sign them. PI spoke with NFL insiders familiar with the players. Here's what they had to say, and what we learned about the team's search for impact players.

In a series of articles that will be published for our members first in the Insider's Lounge, PI experts take on the questions fans have and provide analysis and insights from experts both inside and outside the Scout.com network.

The Pats added two defensive linemen (Rashad Moore and Kenny Smith) and released long snapper Tony Case late last Friday. The moves were curiously timed to occur after the end of the team's three-day mandatory minicamp. Case's release made sense (He was out of football for 2 years, and the Pats have a long snapper), but what about the other two?

Rashad Moore

Of the two defenders signed, Moore appears to have more of a chance to stick on the roster. He has the size (6-foot-3, 325-pounds) to play nose tackle if he can prove he is past any health concerns. His competition at the same spot does not have the same size, and Moore already has experience at the position (He played for the Jets under Eric Mangini).

Jets Insider Dan Leberfeld, a Sirius NFL Radio host, contributor on the MSG network and Scout.com reporter had this on Moore.

He is a 6-3, 330 pound defensive tackle out of Tenn, who was a sixth round pick of Seattle a couple of years ago. He has very little quickness and athletic ability. He started off good for the Jets last year, and then tailed off. He needs to get in better condition. He doesn't have great stamina, but he's certainly built to play 3-4 nose tackle.

Speaking with Dan, which we've been able to do more often in recent times as the Scout.com network makes new and exciting inroads in NFL circles, we come away with the impression that Moore could have worked out had he shown some drive and motivation. The Jets needed impact players last year, and Moore wasn't one. But that does not mean he can't play a role as a reserve defender seeing maybe 10-15 snaps a game to spell Wilfork, or add beef in the middle in short yardage situations.

New York Jets DT Rashad Moore, strips the ball from Miami Dolphins RB Sammy Morris Oct 15, 2006 (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

 

Doug Farrar, Editor-in-chief for Seahawks.net and Football Outsiders staff writer shared his thoughts on Moore.

As a 2003 rookie (sixth-round draft pick), Moore was the pet project of Seahawks defensive line coach Dwaine Board. Board rode the youngster from Tennessee mercilessly every day in practice and the results spoke for themselves for a time. When he came out of college, Moore had a reputation as an underachiever, but Board got him to play hard, every down, and that resulted in an excellent rookie season. In 2004, Moore was the Seahawks' most consistent defensive lineman. He started 12 games and was a formidable presence in the interior. He was very strong and held up well against the run. More of a prototype 4-3 nose tackle who soaks up blockers than a real pass rusher.

Farrar's last statement is exactly what the Patriots are looking for. He is a 4-3 defensive tackle (or in the Pats case a 3-4 nose tackle), which can soak up blocks. That was one thing sorely lacking when Wilfork went out with an injury late in the season. There wasn't anyone who could fill in to soak up those blocks.

Farrar went on to say that injuries shortened Moore's tenure in Seattle.

Moore found it difficult to recover from shoulder surgery after the 2004 season, and he was released with an injury settlement in September 2005 after first being placed on injured reserve. The team drafted Texas DT Marcus Tubbs in the first round in 2004, and that allowed Seattle to move on.

If he's healthy, Moore is a quality option in an interior line rotation, but I'm not sure what his medical situation is at this point or how chronic his shoulder troubles might be.

With what we've heard from those who covered the teams Moore played for, plus what we've heard from other NFL insiders, Moore has a better shot at making the Patriots roster than his fellow signee on Friday, Kenny Smith. Smith, however, does have one interesting skill that you wouldn't expect; he can be the team's reserve long-snapper.

Kenny Smith

The 6-foot-4, 303-pound Smith has the ability and the experience in playing both defensive tackle and at end. The Saints used Smith sparingly, during his tenure there and injuries shortened his career in the Big Easy. Smith played in 6, 9 and 15 games respectively from his rookie season (2001) on in New Orleans before being placed on IR in 2004.

Knee and shoulder injuries hampered Smith's ability to stay on the field. With the coaching change from Jim Haslett to Sean Peyton in 2005, Smith parted ways with the organization and headed to Oakland. He sat out the 2005 season on IR again. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers worked Smith out in February and then decided to sign him to a free agent deal in March. The Bucs released him on April 30th, a little less than 2 months after signing with the team.

New York Giants running back Tiki Barber (21) gets away from New Orleans Saints defender Kenny Smith (90) as Giants Scott Peters (63) blocks in first half NFL action in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans Sunday Dec. 14, 2003. Barber had a short gainon the play. (AP Photo/Andrew Cohoon)

Matthew Postins, publisher for BucsBlitz on Scout.com and beat writer for the Charlotte Sun-Herald shared this on Smith and why Tampa Bay decided to go another direction.

The Bucs released Smith the day after the draft. He became expendable after the Bucs selected Greg Peterson in the fifth round, a player they consider a long-term project inside. The Bucs also traded for Chiefs DT Ryan Sims shortly thereafter. They were also hamstrung by the roster limit. Entering the draft they were several players over and had to make a move to get inside the 80-player limit. They signed him as a free agent on March 8, 2007.

Looking at the potential of these two players through rose colored glasses, you could conceivably come to the conclusion that Moore will replace Mike Wright as Wilfork's backup, while Smith could snare the backup role at DT/DE filling a void left by the untimely death of Marquise Hill.

In a more realistic view, the one which we aspire to follow, neither Moore nor Smith are the answer. The issue of adding someone who can help is that all the talent is already gone. Nearly every team looks for talent on the interior or exterior defensive line, and the best prospects are usually signed by now unless there's an underlying issue (Injury, Suspension…). Checking in with Adam Caplan's Best Available on defense, the list is full of players with injury concerns, lack of experience, or defenders who are in the twilight of their careers.

For now the Patriots will just have to hope they found players who "buy in" to the Patriots' team-first mentality and are over their injury problems.


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