Decimated by injuries, the Cowboys plucked a player off the practice squad of the New England Patriots with an eye on tomorrow and the future.
Usually, this is the scenario where a multi-year, veteran, street free agent makes his way to the roster. The Cowboys, who have been violated by the injury bug in ways not fit for Cinemax, lost slot cornerback Orlando Scandrick to a broken hand during their Thanksgiving Day loss to Washington. Earlier this week, the team also lost safety Charlie Peprah to a foot injury that will apparently keep him out for the next two to three weeks.
Of course, the Cowboys had originally signed Peprah when Danny McCray was looking to miss some time. Of course, McCray was in the lineup after Barry Church tore his achilles early in the year. Of course, the other safety Gerald Sensabaugh seems to be gutting it out through his injuries sustained over the season.
There's definitely nothing safe about playing safety for the Dallas Cowboys.
Instead of going the usual stop-gap route that the team has been forced to do in the past, signing a player that wasn't currently on a roster and getting them up to speed in a hurry (Peprah, Eric Frampton, Ernie Sims), the Cowboys elected to go a different direction this time.
On Friday, the club signed Sterling Moore off of the practice squad of the New England Patriots. Moore is no ancient vet; he's only 22 years old. He also isn't some sort of noob; having played in 14 contests over the last two seasons. In fact, he's also been in extreme-pressure conditions and proven his worth. Remember the AFC Championship game where the Ravens an incompletion away from beating the Pats? That was Moore getting his hand in there at the last minute to knock away the ball and keep his team alive.
Now, granted, that wasn't the best coverage.. but Moore didn't give up on the play and made a game-saving contribution. So what's the scoop on Moore? As O.C.C. pointed out in the original news piece:
The 5-10, 200-pound Moore did not begin playing football until his senior year of high school, when his school's receivers coach saw him playing with his friends before the first day of tryouts and encouraged him to play. Moore played for two seasons at SMU in Dallas after transferring from Laney College, where he was a California all-JUCO selection.
There are a couple of interesting things about Moore. For one, the Cowboys have extended him beyond just this season signing him through 2013. That's the sort of thing you do when A) you have to entice a player to leave an organization as well-run and successful as the Patriots and B) when you want make sure said player can be part of your future not just your now.
I have it on good authority that Moore is a highly versatile player. The Patriots may have been grooming him for the ultimate hybrid role. Moore isn't just a cornerback that can play safety, but New England may also have envisioned him as a player capable of moving to the inside linebacker position as well; much like the Cowboys did with Barry Church and Danny McCray on occasions in years past. That ability would allow the Cowboys to keep Moore on the field regardless of the matchup.
Also, if that's the case, then Moore has been spending time in practice going up against the likes of Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in a myriad of assignments and responsibilities defending against Tom Brady passes. That can't be a bad thing.
Obviously, he isn't already a great player, as New England didn't have him on their active roster at the current time. In the first eight games of the season, he played meaningful snaps (40% or more) five times and accrued starter snaps twice. Peyton Manning ate him up in a Week 5 matchup against Denver to the tune of 6 for 6 passes in his direction for 130 yards including 42 after the catch. That was in only 34 snaps.
Last season, PFF really liked his contributions down the stretch. He graded positively for four consecutive games (Wk 17 through the SuperBowl) and earned a +6.6 cumulative grade on 381 snaps. His pass coverage grade for the year was +5.4.
All in all, this might be the first in-season signing that actually has piqued my interest in a while. Peprah's made a couple big plays (and bad ones) and Sims has been more than solid, but this move kind of smells like something we can serve up on a plate.
With the move coming after the club has shut down communications for the weekend, we don't know whether or not Moore will be active for tomorrow's game. We'll see how soon Dallas might unveil the youngster so we can see for ourselves what we have.