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Seahawks on tape: David Moore punishes defensive backs by winning at the point of the catch

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t leave David Moore one-on-one, he will punish you. The Seattle Seahawks’ 2017 seventh round pick proved that last Sunday. Coming from East Central University—which sounds a bit like if NCAA Football returned without licenses—Moore’s rise from his 2017 practice squad time has been incredible.

Each week he’s been demanding more reps in the Seahawks’ heavily favored personnel grouping of 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end and 3 wide receivers). Against the Detroit Lions, Moore built on his impressive showing in London versus the Oakland Raiders, catching four passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. In contrast, Brandon Marshall, the original jump-ball contested catch target, received just two snaps.

Marshall has now been cut, a move made possible by the rapid advancement of Moore.

Moore’s reliable hands have won the jump-ball job; think a combination of a Golden Tate-Jermaine Kearse-role. His stock can only rise: with the talents of Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett on the field at the same time, Moore’s going to receive favorable looks.

That proved the case facing the Lions. After the injury to what was already a weak link in Jamal Agnew, Detroit’s match-up solution was to put 2017 second round draft pick Teez Tabor on Moore for the entire game. Given Moore ran a 4.43 forty at 213 lbs compared to Tabor’s 4.62 at 201, this was likely to be a speed mismatch.

But, as Moore’s production showed, it turned out to be so much more than that. Seattle is still figuring out what Moore can do, having handed the ball to him on the jet in London and dumped a few screens his way. This game proved that he can physically dominate a defender throughout the game.

Usually when producing Seahawks on Tape, it takes a while to fully decipher the coverage responsibilities of each player when annotating the videos. The Lions made this task easy, staying in variations of press cover 1 all day. In the schematic preview of the game, I envisioned the ramifications of this:

“If the Lions give [Russell Wilson] all-day to throw, especially off the play-fake, they are going to get DANG3RUSS’D. This will be especially true if Detroit predominantly runs their preferred press cover 1 coverage. They don’t have the players to match-up with Seattle’s skill-sets, no matter how much they alternate.”

However, I thought it would be Lockett or Baldwin primarily thriving. Instead Moore was the punisher. The Lions’ decision to leave him on an island with Tabor throughout the game looked foolish by the end. There was a complete talent discrepancy between the 255th selection and the 53rd. Number 255 triumphed.

“There’s no doubt there were some good contested plays out there,’’ Matt Patricia said post-game. “But unfortunately, we didn’t come up on the right side of it. They did. They out-finished those plays and came down with them and they were big for them and not good for us.”

Why on earth Matt Patricia didn’t run more pattern-matching zone is beyond me, but the Seahawks can be thankful that 16 of their 19 pass plays faced man. To the tape!

Contested Catch Chain Mover

Moore’s first catch came in the opening game script, just 2.44 played. In the game-planning leading up to this game, Seattle clearly identified Moore’s challenge as one area of Patricia’s defense to exploit. The man-to-man nature of cover 1 makes it abundantly clear who can win their match-ups.

The Seahawks face a big 3rd and 7. Pre-snap, Russell Wilson fake hikes trying to bait the sugaring linebackers into coming or bailing away from the line of scrimmage early. Their stationary nature, combined with the two-high safeties and the press-alignment of the rest of the defensive backs, strongly reveals the man defense. One safety creeping lower than the other suggests cover 1.

The offensive line deals well with the bluff pressure, left guard J.R. Sweezy communicating well with Justin Britt about the b-gap threat posed by the linebacker.

Moore finds himself at the bottom of our screens. The y-cross concept Brian Schottenheimer calls sees Moore run a hitch at the sticks. His shuffle release at the line of scrimmage opens Tabor to the sideline, revealing the flattening technique of Tabor. It also re-sets the line of scrimmage, making jamming Moore difficult for Tabor.

Moore presses downfield well keeping his headgear straight, then drops his weight and jab steps to cut his hitch just beyond the sticks. He separates further with subtle hand-fighting during the route and then a brush from his left arm right before the ball arrives.

Moore stacks Tabor brilliantly, positioning himself right between the pass and the defender. He attacks the football, high-pointing and showing strong hands as he holds the ball away from his frame. Turning up-field, he tucks the ball and falls forward. First down Seahawks.

Contested Catch Touchdown Scorer

Moore started the second quarter off with a very similar catch. Down in the redzone, Schottenheimer’s offense is deadly.

Seattle goes with tempo that sees the Lions get barely set pre-snap. The defense scuttles over to the field side. Wilson looks off the deep safety with a glance at the vertical route of tight end Ed Dickson. Free safety Glover Quinn isn’t even interested in Wilson though. He’s trying to bracket Baldwin, who Detroit views as the danger man.

Moore’s left isolated in a clear one-on-one, again the nearest receiver from our viewpoint. His shuffle release to the pylon on his route is matched well by Tabor. But it’s what Moore does at the catchpoint that is so impressive.

Tabor’s physical coverage is bordering on lunging as Moore keeps heading for the pylon. Moore’s body-positioning keeps his right side totally free as he fights through the contact with his left arm. He then looks for the ball at the perfect time.

Flashing his body control again, Moore swivels to stack Tabor and rise for the backshoulder fade. His leap is slightly mistimed, meaning the throw is behind on its way to hitting a combination of left shoulder pad and hand. Yet Moore has the concentration to keep tracking the ball and haul in his own cushioned tip drill. Touchdown on the redzone four-verts concept!

Contested Catch Deep Threat

Schottenheimer returned to a version of his y-cross concept with 8.17 left in the 2nd, lining up in a trips shotgun formation.

It’s clear to Wilson once more that the coverage is some sort of man. Following the snap, one of the safeties comes shallower and the other goes deep; Wilson knows he has Tabor on Moore again.

Dickson’s poor protection on the right edge versus Davis sees potential trouble for Wilson. Ifedi’s initial assignment has him stay tight for the rush of linebacker Miles Killebrew. Yet Ifedi manages to pass Killebrew off inside and then get outside to Jarrad Davis. Great work.

Running his go route, Moore brushes away Tabor’s hand-fighting with his off-hand for the second time. He gets behind Tabor’s trail and times his ball location faultlessly again. Tabor has no clue where the pass is as Moore looks around to Wilson. As Tabor goes to contact Moore, the receiver cunningly pushes Tabor’s arms away and then brushes the cornerback off him.

That separation has Moore’s body fully twisted around as he gets off the ground while running backwards. His hands now free, Moore snags a highlight-reel catch for 27-yards on 3rd and 7.

What a great challenge it was from Pete Carroll to overturn the incompletion with the new catch rules in place, Moore’s three steps being a football move. The Seahawks went on to score on this drive, extending their lead to 14. This was Moore’s most important reception.

Play-Action Physical Deep Threat

On the second play of the fourth quarter, Moore capped his performance with physicality off the play-fake.

Pre-snap, Seattle motions Tyler Lockett inside into a stack. It’s a similar movement to what would accompany a run to the perimeter—the idea being to tighten the defense and then outflank them. Rather than being a run game aid, on this play it helps the passing game.

It assures Wilson the coverage is man-to-man, the Lions staying in their same match-ups. It also creates space for Moore to work Tabor, who would have expected to be in the slot. Suddenly Moore has a greater two-way go as the outside receiver.

His head-fake, square release off the line of scrimmage pauses Tabor for a moment. Moore then runs inwards, Tabor desperately lunging and trying to get inside to press Moore. Rather than jam, his arms are left trailing in Moore’s speed.

The physicality to fight through the contact while keeping the route speed plus timing from Moore is excellent.

The corner route of the play-action flood concept beats Tabor deep. The deep safety is sucked down by the inside run-fake. Moore separates downfield and Wilson puts the ball to the corner in-stride. This is where only Moore can get it, but it also gives him the chance to get some yards after catch. He picks up the 45-yard catch-and-run.

The Ceiling

Right now, the ceiling of Moore is difficult to measure given its loftiness. He’s still a raw player, the biggest area to work on being route running. Moore’s first two catches were tight space ones that were never going to be about separation, but he is still reliant on speed to get open on things like go routes. Fortunately, Moore’s got one of the best route runners to learn from in Baldwin:

Moore dominating Tabor so convincingly is exhilarating. The second-year receiver is fast-becoming the trusted safety blanket of Wilson—which for the future represents blitz-beating potential. The improvements to Moore’s skillset have been rapid and, though development is not linear, his ability by the time he is a free agent in 2021 could be pro-bowl good. At least...

Currently, Moore’s timing of when to look for the ball is a subtle part of the game that he excels at. Combined with his physical ability to stack, his vertical threat and his improving releases, it makes Moore a lethal wide receiver #3. The Seahawks’ receiving group is becoming nightmarish to defend.

With Schottenheimer’s exploitation of the clear isolation and Wilson’s blossoming chemistry with Moore, this is only the beginning. Y-Cross; Four Verts; or Play-Action; leave David Moore in a one-on-one and he will punish you.