Not that they would be interested in a 265-pound, long-armed, productive defensive end. But rather that they would be interested in drafting a player who was dismissed from a major school for behavioral reasons.
What those of us on the outside didn’t know was that since getting his second chance at Youngstown State, Moss has apparently matured and turned his life around.
And now he is a New York Giant, so let’s see what he might bring to the defense, and how he could fit in with Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon.
The Giants’ defensive front was one of the stoutest in football when it came to stopping the run last season. Few teams were able to reliably advance the ball on the ground against JPP, Vernon, Damon Harrison, and Johnathan Hankins.
Surprisingly, the Giants struggled when it came to rushing the passer — or more precisely, finishing their rushes and getting the quarterback on the ground. Vernon and Pierre-Paul were close to the top of the league in the amount of pressure they got on opposing quarterbacks, but only inconsistently managed to convert pressure into sacks.
Assuming the Giants’ defense can put opposing offenses in obvious passing situations, can Moss contribute as a pass rusher?
The one element the Giants’ defense lacked in 2016 was speed in their four-man pass rush. Vernon is a good athlete and well-rounded defensive end, but he relies more on his technique and motor to beat blockers than raw athleticism. JPP is an athletic freak, but his game has been based more on explosive power than a blindingly fast burst off the line of scrimmage.
Giants’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is fond of using stunts and twists, along with blitzes, to create confusion along the offensive line.
The play aboveis as much about Moss’ agility as it is his raw speed. Lined up against the left tackle, Moss gets a good jump off the ball, but sinks hips and makes a sharp cut inside. The move essentially forces the left guard and left tackle to double team the 3-technique. With the center, right guard, and right tackle working on the other defensive tackle and Rivers at left defensive end, Moss has a free run right up the middle at the quarterback.
Unfortunately, a coverage breakdown on the back end let the slot receiver run wide open and the quarterback was just able to get the pass off before Moss gets there. The play was ultimately a success by the offense, but Moss had a good play of his own.
At 6’3”, 265 pounds, Moss has a naturally stout build and relatively low center of gravity. On the flip side of that coin, his long 34 1⁄2 inch arms should give him the chance to get his hands on blockers first. All of that means that he should have a power element to his game, and he does.
Moss is once again lined up at right defensive end across from the left tackle.
He doesn’t get a great jump off the ball, but wins the hand battle immediately, getting his hands inside the tackles shoulders. He extends his arms, jacking up the tackle’s pad level and keeping him from anchoring against the bull rush. From there Moss puts his center of gravity to work, keeping his hips low and drives through the blocker, walking him back right into the quarterback. There isn’t any other help nearby to get the sack, and Moss can’t seem to disengage from the blocker to get to the quarterback. The result is a scramble that lets the quarterback pick up the first down. Ideally, Moss would either be able to shed the block and get the sack or keep contain enough to keep the quarterback from escaping.
But despite the outcome, his bull rush is a good one.
Run defense is important, particularly in the NFC East. If the Giants’ coaches don’t have confidence that a player can defend the run, their opportunities to get on the field will be limited.
In the tape that I was able to watch, offenses didn’t often run at Moss. Part of that may be because he routinely played on the offensive left. Another part may be because Derek Rivers, who played the offensive right, is 15 to 20 pounds lighter.
This is a play where a team does try to run at Moss.
North Dakota State is the “Alabama” of the FCS, run a ‘Pro Style’ offense, and won’t hesitate to run the ball.
Moss gets good leverage dealing with the left tackle — and left guard before he releases to the second level to block a linebacker. Once again, Moss does a pretty good job with his hands and is able to get enough leverage to keep the tackle from pushing him backwards (much).
It isn’t Moss’ responsibility to make the tackle here, that is either the linebacker or the safety. It’s difficult to say whether or not Moss will be a good run defender at the next level, but he does his job by setting a hard edge and not letting the tackle create a wider running lane.
Thanks to his roundabout path to the NFL, and the checkered past that necessitated it, Moss wasn’t a highly-regarded prospect throughout the draft process. In fact, while he was regarded as the “other” defensive end opposite of Derek Rivers, even Rivers was overlooked to an extent.
However, Moss has an intriguing blend of size and athleticism, and brings an intriguing skill set. He shows off powerful hands and the ability to control blockers at the FCS level, while also having surprising “twitch” and short area quickness. Projecting and developing draft picks from the third day is often a crap shoot, but if Moss develops to his potential, the Giants might have gotten themselves a steal.