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Has Dezman Moses Already Made the Team?

by Mike Conklin

E-mail: mikeconklin@packerpedia.com
July 1, 2012

 

There might not have been another player with more buzz around him during offseason workouts than Dezman Moses.

As well as he has done thus far, we always hear that a player can't make the team in June. Cue the cliches. "Let's see what happens in pads." "Wait until the lights come on." "You can't see their warts in helmets and shorts." (Just made that one up.)

But upon further examination, is it really that ridiculous of a notion to think that what a player does in the offseason program will go a long way in forming the opinions of coaches and personnel evaluators? For Mike McCarthy and the Packers, who place such a strong emphasis on the work that is done in the offseason, what happens in May and June is very important.

The idea of a young player virtually making the team in the spring really isn't unprecedented, and we don't have to look back very far to find similar cases. As we wrote previously, Atari Bigby is a great example of a fringe player who came out of nowhere, excelled in offseason workouts, and seemingly locked up not only a roster spot but almost even a starting spot. Unlike Moses, Bigby had the benefit of spending some time with the team previously, having bounced on and off the practice squad. But he was a bubble player at best, and no one expected him to take the team by storm like he did in the spring of 2007.

The first thing Bigby did was win over his teammates. Throughout the offseason, he earned the trust and respect of the veterans around him. Coming off a year when there were a lot of mistakes in the secondary by Marquand Manuel, the veterans understandably wanted someone they could rely upon back there. Bigby fit the bill.

Al Harris was universally respected in the locker room, and his opinion carried a lot of weight. Before coming to the Packers he had played alongside Brian Dawkins with the Eagles. Dawkins was one of the best safeties in the league, and was selected to nine Pro Bowls during his career. Having spent five years as teammates in Philadelphia, Harris had seen Dawkins up close and personal.

"(Bigby) reminds me so much of Dawk, just how explosive he is," said Harris. "He can run, he can cover, he can tackle. He's the total package."

Harris wasn't the only member of the secondary to weigh in on the young, unproven Bigby.

"I really like him too," said Charles Woodson. "Keep an eye on him. You'll see what we like when the lights come on."

As we mentioned in the previous post, the focus here really isn't on Bigby. It would be easy to get sidetracked and look at the way that his career with the Packers fizzled over time. In this case, the story is more about how a player came out of virtually nowhere and made the coaches and teammates take notice during offseason practices. Bigby went on to make a huge impact that year and was even voted NFL Defensive Player of the Month during the playoff run in December. Not bad for a fringe player who came out of nowhere in June.

One of the intriguing subplots in this story is the way Dezman Moses has elicited strong statements from other veterans on the team, similar to what was said about Bigby a few years ago when he made his meteoric rise up the depth chart.

“That kid is good,” said Desmond Bishop. “Run stopping, rushing the passer, getting his calls in. Everything. He’s smart. He’s a good player.”

“We talk about him every day, pretty much,” added Tramon Williams. “He’s got a lot of strength and pass rushing ability, let’s just say that." That's a pretty strong quote, giving one the impression that there's much more he could have said about Moses but chose to let his play speak for itself.

"I think he's shown the coaches as well as myself everything he needs to at the outside linebacker position," declared Clay Matthews. Another strong statement, coming from a guy who knows a thing or two about playing that position.

Those statements are evidence that Dezman Moses is already starting to gain the trust of his peers, much like Bigby was able to do in 2007. It looks like Moses is already weaving himself into the fabric of the team and being embraced by other players, which will go a long way toward making the team.

A better comparison may be that of Sam Shields in 2010. Shields was an undrafted rookie, just like Moses is this year. It was evident early that he had some unique skills, and he quickly made an impression. In fact, Shields made a statement in the very first open OTA practice in May, when he intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass intended for Jordy Nelson. He continued to impress throughout the rest of the spring workouts as well.

Mike McCarthy is not often effusive with his praise, but when asked directly if he liked what he had seen from Shields in just the first week of training camp he did not hesitate to give a pretty strong answer.

"Sam has made plays. Yeah, definitely. Sam really jumped out to me in the spring, particularly with the special teams, and he's made some plays as a corner, as a defensive back." It is telling that McCarthy hearkened back to spring workouts. It clearly is a point of emphasis for him.

Never shy from giving his opinion, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt also weighed in. He admitted Shields was raw, but said he was arguably the most gifted player of his group. And he said this in June, long before the pads ever came on.

"Once we get him going," said Whitt, "he’s going to be a danged-good player.”

There is no doubt that it is far too early to really know how Dezman Moses or any other player is going to turn out at this point. But for a team like the Packers that places such an emphasis on the offseason program, the fact that Moses made such a strong first impression definitely gives him a leg up going into training camp later this month. The importance of first impressions is not lost on Moses.

"My dad always talked about, ‘You never want to take a day off.’ The first time anybody sees you play, you want to make a good impression. You only get one first impression.”

In a sense, Moses will have to make a good first impression once again, this time in pads. Both Shields and Bigby were able to parlay a strong spring into a solid training camp, which is the most important part of the equation. Moses will have to do the same thing. But with his strong performance this spring, the Packers will give him every opportunity to prove himself. After being a long shot to make the team just six weeks ago, it almost seems like he'll have to play himself out of a job at this point.