Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys have several questions to answer as they transition to Monte Kiffin's defensive scheme. One player who may have an increased role in it is defensive back Sterling Moore.
On a list of positions where the Dallas Cowboys need to find some help this year, safety is generally seen to be third, behind the defensive and offensive lines. In Monte Kiffin's defensive schemes, as Coty Saxman has so excellently described and illustrated, the safeties have to be athletic and able to react to multiple roles, from playing deep coverage to coming up in man coverage, depending on the play called and the offensive formation, as well as providing run support.
The Cowboys had injury issues at safety, which you probably are well aware of, losing Barry Church early in the season, and never seeing rookie Matt Johnson take the field to find out if he is the ballhawking playmaker many think he is. Danny McCray was unable to make a successful move from special teams to regular duty on the field and the Cowboys were forced to go with a variety of options to try and fill in. They used street free agents like Eric Frampton and Charlie Peprah, neither of which have been signed for next year after their one-year deals expired.
There is one free agent, acquired fairly late in the season, that the Cowboys do still have on contract: Sterling Moore. Don't be surprised to see him get a chance to be part of the solution at safety next year.
Moore came to the Cowboys after being waived and then signed to their practice squad by the New England Patriots midway in the 2012 season. He was only a role player there, but he had one shining moment of glory for them by breaking up a pass in the end zone that would have put the Baltimore Ravens ahead and likely led to them winning in the 2011 AFC Championship. The Patriots signaled their intention to keep developing him by getting him back on the practice squad, but Dallas saw him as a good option to bolster their depleted secondary and plucked him.
There is an interesting thing when you start researching Moore. He is listed on the Cowboys roster and on various other sites (like ESPN) as a cornerback. Yet when I went to search for the picture I used for the article, he was captioned as a free safety.
This actually fits into the role that New England was developing him for. They termed him a "Hybrid DB". He was used as a nickle/dime corner, and played what the Pats term a "heavy safety". That is a player who is positioned like a middle linebacker when the Pats were in a Tampa 2 type, 4-3 alignnment on defense, but who is seen more as a coverage player. He was also seen as filling an ILB slot in 3-4 alignments when the Pats were in pass defense mode. As I said, New England was looking to him having a bigger role in seasons to come, but Dallas got to do a little poaching.
Although the Cowboys list him as a cornerback, I would think he is also going to be a candidate for safety in the Dallas 2. His training at New England seems to be good preparation for that. And unlike Peprah and Frampton, Moore is young, just entering his third season. He may be an excellent backup for one of the safety spots. He is inexpensive and already on the roster. Additionally, his flexibility could also allow him to serve as a backup nickle corner as well. Jason Garrett has spoken in the past about "multiplicity", or the ability of players to fill more than one role with the team. When you add special teams to his other possible roles, this would make Moore a likely piece going forward. He could help the team by letting them carry one less defensive back, since he covers two backup positions.
It's not a sexy or dynamic move. But it could be a very smart one.