Last season, the Oakland Raiders had one of the most anemic pass rushes in the entire NFL. The entire team finished with a combined 25 total sacks on the season, which was the second-lowest total in the league. Following this offseason, the team only retained 8.5 sacks from last year’s roster, as the remaining 16.5 were from players lost in free agency. The main goal for Reggie McKenzie was to find players to come in and fills holes along the line to provide production in the pass rush.
McKenzie failed to add an impact type player along the front seven during the free agency period. The biggest names brought in were Jason Hunter, Nick Roach, and Kevin Burnett. Roach and Burnett combined for a total of four sacks during last season, so do not expect them to add much of a pass rush threat from the linebacker position. Hunter missed all of last season with a triceps injury, but he only has a total of 11 sacks over his six-year career. None of these players are going to be counted upon to provide constant pass rush.
Then in the 2013 NFL Draft, McKenzie chose to only use three of Oakland’s 10 selections to address their pass rush deficiencies along the defensive front seven. Only two of those three picks are expected to come in as part of the pass rush rotation. The most NFL-ready looks to be third round pick Sio Moore, a linebacker from the University of Connecticut.
When the Raiders selected Moore with the 66th overall pick of the draft, many experts praised the Raiders’ management for getting excellent value. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock had Sio Moore listed as his fourth best 4-3 outside linebacker prospect in the draft and projected as a second-round selection. When the Raiders took Moore off the board, Mayock had this to say:
“When I say trust the process, the process means East-West, combine, pro day. He excelled in all those. Coaches love that he’ll line up on the slot, inside and cover man to man. He came from nowhere, but because of his work ethic, he’s now a third-round pick. With the Raiders, this is a solid double.”
Mayock loved Moore’s work ethic throughout the scouting process, as he exploded in the lesser-known East-West Shrine Game and earned a roster spot in the prestigious Senior Bowl. Moore did not disappoint, as he had a strong week a practice and then led the North squad, which was coached by the Raiders’ coaching staff, in tackles.
Moore is a great combination of athleticism and production at the collegiate level. Moore is a relatively solid athlete. He has decent size at 6’1” and 245 pounds. He had a great performance at the combine, as he was a top performer in four of the seven skill workouts. He had a 40-yard dash time of 4.65 seconds, which was fifth best of all linebackers.
He had the third-best vertical jump at 38 inches, and he finished the second best at the bench press with 29 repetitions of 225 pounds. He is not an elite athlete, but he is athletic enough to be successful at the next level.
As for football skills, Moore flashes great ability off the edge. He has good bend and explosion coming off the edge. He needs to improve his ability to defeat blockers with his hands. He is a solid tackler and consistently breaks down and wraps up the ball carrier. He has shown his ability to be a versatile linebacker by lining up over the tight end or in the slot.
He flashes good coverage skills, but will struggle against faster tight ends, receivers, and backs due to lack of great top end speed. His combination of talent and athleticism makes him an ideal fit at either of the Raiders’ outside linebacker position.
His production at the collegiate level was outstanding. He constantly provided the Huskies with big plays and consistent productivity. Over his four year career, he amassed 274 total tackles, 44 tackles for a loss, 16 sacks, and four forced fumbles. He was also a productive coverage linebacker with three interceptions and 21 pass deflections over his career. Moore’s greatest attribute is his ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He is a terror in an opponent’s backfield with his ability to slip by blockers and penetrate consistently.
Many scouts believe his stats were inflated due to the nature of UConn’s aggressive style of defense that allowed Moore to attack constantly, instead of reading and reacting. Moore is not a product of the defense, as he was tasked with playing space often and was successful a majority of the time.
Generally, the reaction to the pick was positive, and many feel the Raiders had gotten themselves a potential impact player. As a follow up, Moore looked impressive during the Raiders’ mini-camps and Organized Team Activities. Following a late June mini-camp, Dennis Allen told reporters:
“I like Sio. Sio’s a rookie; he makes some rookie mistakes. But he’s a big, powerful man. And he’s got a little bit of pass-rush ability to him. So, I like some of the flexibility that he gives us. What you look at is you look at football intelligence, and he’s got some football intelligence and some football savvy about him. We got a big volume of stuff that we’re throwing at him, and sometimes it can overload him.”
Allen was impressed by Moore’s work ethic and ability to handle what the coaching staff is throwing at him. This quote could be insightful into how the Raiders might handle their third round pick. Depending on his emergence in training camp and the preseason, Moore will probably be used as rotation and situational type of player.
It would allow him to focus on what he does best, getting after the quarterback, while allowing him to catch up to the speed of the game in the other aspects of coverage and run stopping.
It would be expected that his role would be similar to that of Aldon Smith’s rookie year, which was mainly as a backup linebacker and situational pass rush specialist. Moore would then see his role expend in the following season. It would not be surprising to see Moore move into that role even sooner, due to his success at being a versatile player in college.
Moore has the potential to become the face of the Raiders’ linebacker core and to provide the defense with a potential solution for their pass rushing woes. He will not be an elite pass rusher in the mold of a J.J. Watt or Aldon Smith, but more like a John Abraham type that provides a solid eight to 12 sacks a season during his prime.
Moore could be the first step in the resurgence of the Raiders’ defense along with first round draft pick D.J. Hayden. He could potentially end up being one the mid to late round gems unearthed in the 2013 NFL Draft.