Ravens' Moore no longer wary across the middle

OWINGS MILLS – With the build and height of a tall shooting guard, Clarence Moore wasn't exclusively an inviting downfield target for quarterback Kyle Boller last season. Helmet-hunting defensive backs and linebackers identified the rookie wide receiver as too slender and a tad reluctant to challenge them across the middle.

Plus, the 6-foot-6 sixth-round draft pick's weight dipped as low as 205 pounds midway through last season even while emerging as a formidable red-zone threat specializing in the fade pattern.

However, Moore's lack of upper body strength often prevented him from gaining significant yards after the catch by breaking tackles. Escaping cornerbacks' jam attempts at the line of scrimmage was another major challenge.

After devoting himself to strength and conditioning coach Jeff Friday's weightlifting regimen and increasing his calories this off-season, Moore has bulked up to 220 pounds and hopes to be a lot more durable and productive.

"I'll feel a lot better going across the middle now," said Moore, who caught 24 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns last season. "When you put on some good weight, you feel better all around. I finally put on a little bit of muscle and gained some weight.

"I maintained my quickness and speed. If anything, I'm getting into my patterns quicker because of my leg strength and I feel a lot more powerful."

Designated as the Ravens' No. 3 wide receiver behind starters Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, Moore remains one of the tallest wide receivers in the NFL.

Now, Moore, 22, looks a lot more like a football player than an NBA athlete, crediting his time spent training with Friday along with regular excursions to Outback Steakhouse and The Cheesecake Factory.

"For him to be able to hold up physically, I think he has a better understanding that he needed that extra size to do what we're asking of him," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Plus, it's a natural maturation for him. He's a tall, lean athlete.

"He could afford to put that weight on and it's not going to affect his speed at all. In the long run, it's going to allow him to hold up much better over a 16-game season."

The weight could increase Moore's role to include more intermediate routes, moving beyond the jump-ball role he thrived in last season.

Moore caught two touchdowns apiece against the New York Jets and New York Giants, and Boller made it a habit to lob the football up where only the former Northern Arizona standout could grab it. He started six of the Ravens' final eight games, playing in 15 games.

It was an encouraging season for a lower-round draft pick. Yet, there were a few occasions where Moore appeared to short-arm passes over the middle, flinching at the possibility of heavy contact.

"You need that extra muscle because while you're concentrating on the ball, they're concentrating on hitting you," Mason said. "They are coming full-force and trying to take your head off.

"I'm pretty sure Clarence wasn't afraid to go over the middle last year. He was a bit underweight, and you're going to take some hard shots. Those shots won't affect him as much as last year."

Moore wants to gain another seven pounds before training camp, reasoning that the additional armor will protect him from injury. He can bench press 300 pounds and leg press 500 pounds after his time in the off-season conditioning program.

Although Moore was limited last week with a sore neck, he recovered quickly and was back on the field Monday catching passes.

"I've always been that guy who liked to hit even though I was one of the smaller guys," Moore said. "Now, I've got some force coming behind me and I'm so much stronger than last year. I feel a lot more prepared than my rookie season. I'm ready to go

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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