Originally written on Thoughts from the Dark Side  |  Last updated 11/20/14
When the Raiders took Sio Moore with the 66th overall pick in the 2013 draft, former Raiders player and Hall of Famer Willie Brown, who was announcing for the Raiders, gave the pick as “Sio Moore, linebacker, Connecticut.” You can watch the video of the selection, here. However, Moore is not just a linebacker. UConn, who boasted a strong defense in 2012, used him as a defensive end at times, too.  He is a very versatile player and Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will be able to use that versatility in a number of different ways. Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie acknowledged that they will use Moore in a variety of positions.  When he was asked, right close after the draft ended, about the pass-rush needs, he said, “We think the third-round pick, Sio, can come off the edge a bit.” Looking at this tape, it does appear that Moore can not only come off the edge but also can play either of the outside linebacker positions well.  Here is what the tape shows for the Raiders third-round selection. Moore has decent but not great size. He also lacks top end speed which definitely limits him in coverage. He is willing to engage with tight ends in coverage but he will not be able to hang with faster TE’s because he lacks the ability to match the better ends’ straight-line speed. He also struggles in space to follow his man on complicated routes and so he ends up a few steps behind his man, more than enough space for a good QB to fit a pass. He operates much better in space when he’s in a zone scheme because he’s very good at reading and reacting.  In fact, the ability to diagnose plays and put himself in a position to be a factor is one of his biggest strengths. Another advantage for him in zone is that he tends to peer into the backfield, trying to get eyes on where the QB is going. That allows his man to shake him when he’s too focused on the QB but in zone he has more a chance to read the QB because he’s defending an area instead of a receiver that can shake him. I like him better as a linebacker as a defensive end because he lacks bulk for the end position in most plays.  He can line up with his hand down, certainly, but he’d likely be a liability if the team ran directly at him at an end spot. The only time I’d see him be lining up at the defensive end position would be occasionally on definite pass situations, like 3rd and long. When he rushes from an end position, he does have the speed and power combo to be able to get around an offensive tackle and get to the quarterback. He also showed good skill getting to the quarterback from a linebacker position and I see it as much more likely that he rushes from the linebacker position than from the end position. Rushing from the linebacker position, he also exhibited his versatility and instincts such as in this play, below.   Here, Temple is trying to convert on 3rd and 6 and the UConn defense has come out with a 2-5 defense with only two down linemen and 5 linebackers.  Moore is the one with the arrow pointing to him, he's going to rush from the right side of the line.   At the snap, Moore and the linebacker on his outside shoulder both come in at the line.  The offensive line has 3 guys - the center, LG and LT - to stop the two of them. It initially looks like the Moore will come up against the LG and the other LB will engage the LT.   As you can see in the next picture, here, the LB who was initially lined outside of Moore has now cut inside Moore's L shoulder and the LG is transitioning to block this LB, giving Moore to the LT.   However, Moore has used his speed and size and been able to bull quickly through the gap between the LT and LG. He is en-route to the QB:   Moore takes the QB down with a textbook tackle:   Rushing is just one of the abilities that Moore showcased. Probably more important, for a linebacker at least, was the ability to “stack and shed, “ which simply means he can take on blockers at the point of attack, stop their momentum and then shed the block to get to a ball carrier. The ability to stack and shed may be the most underrated ability for a linebacker in all of football.  After all, it doesn’t matter how physically imposing., how strong, how fast or how great a tackler a player is if that player cannot get to the ball carrier because he’s been taken out of the play by a blocker. Fortunately, Moore actually showed above average stack and shed abilities. He willingly takes on all blockers:  fullbacks, tight ends or offensive linemen and is still able to make a play. Below is an example of how he uses his physical skills and instincts to make a play in the running game: In the example, below, Rutgers came out in a 2 TE set.  Moore, coming out as a 4-3 RDE, has engaged with one of the tight ends in run support.  The play appears to be coming his direction because the fullback has come towards Moore's side of the line. Moore's job, then, is to set the edge and drive the runningback towards the rest of the defense:   In the next picture, below, Moore has used his upperbody strength and long arms to provide a separation from the tight end.  He's got about a half step to the outside on the end, as well:   Below, the runningback has clearly committed to the side.  Moore has definitely beat his man to the outside.  The linebacker corps has done a good job shifting with the runningback and is in a good position.  The fullback is just approaching where Moore is still engaging with the tight end:   The fullback passes Moore, who cleanly dis-engages with his man. It's hard to see, but Moore takes the space between the fullback and the end, right where the running back is:   Moore is able to come up and taked down the back for a two yard loss:   In the final example, Moore is lined up as a rush linebacker in a 3-4.  The Rutgers offense has come out in a 3 WR, 1 TE set but they TE is in the slot position on the L side of the offensive line. The UConn defense is rushing 3 down linemen and 2 linebackers, one of which is Moore.  The offensive line has 5 guys set to block 5 rushers.   At the snap, LG pulls to run block so the remaining 4 offensive linemen have to block all 5 rushers. The LT tries to block both Moore and the RDE:   The LT focuses on guarding the RDE and lets Moore go because the play is in the opposite direction from Moore. However, Moore has the speed to get around the edge and, again, stops the run in the backfield:   In all, the Raiders got a solid player in Moore and his versatility will also serve the defense well. He isn't a flashy or elite player. However, he's a very solid player who knows his place on the field and can contribute to the team right away.
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