Bears' Moore quickly becoming an impact player

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Bears' Moore quickly becoming an impact player

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
Posted: 1:15 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Sometimes it really is all in your head. It certainly was with D.J. Moore.

After a virtually invisible rookie season, the former Vanderbilt All-American has emerged as an impact player in the Bears' nickel packages. He had six solo tackles, one for loss, against Philadelphia, and followed that with another half-dozen (three solo, three assists) in Detroit, plus a sack shared with Brian Urlacher, another tackle for loss, a quarterback hit and a pass deflection.

Moore also is among league leaders with four interceptions.

It is a borderline-remarkable turnaround for a fourth-round draft choice from a rookie in which he played in only three games and then mostly on special teams. And that was an especially painful comedown after playing in 37 SEC games for Vanderbilt, starting 34, and being voted All-SEC as both a sophomore and a junior.

Moore didn't exactly pout but his attitude was ultimately as much a problem as anything else.

"I was mad last year," Moore admitted. "I didn't play and I knew I was good, so I was upset. You've just got to work hard and wait for the coach to put you out there. Learned just working hard, just not taking everything.

"I was so upset last year. I don't know what to tell you. Everything. I was mad at everybody and I probably should've been mad at myself for not working hard enough."

Not even one-on-one coaching from former defensive back Lovie Smith was enough to get his head facing in the right direction.

"I think sometimes you've just got to wait and I had a little different attitude last year," Moore said. "I think I could've played last year but sometimes you've got to wait when it's not your time."

Feeling a draft?

What's a little notable with New England is how the organization built its offensive line, the one that takes awfully good care of Tom Brady, himself a sixth-round draft choice an NFL long time ago. The Patriots have a No. 1 at left guard (same as the Bears; OK, so that wasn't the original idea with Chris Williams, but stay with me on the overall) in Logan Mankins.

Their center, Dan Koppen, was a fifth-round pick, same as Bears left tackle Frank Omiyale.

But New England spent No. 2's on right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and left tackle Matt Light. Omiyale is turning out to be arguably the best personnel nugget since Roberto Garza, but both of them were acquired via free agency and right tackle J'Marcus Webb, who may turn out to be the nugget of the 2010 draft someday, was a seventh-rounder.

A No. 1 and two No. 2's out of five starting positions: Is that one explanation behind the long-term New England excellence on offense besides simply Brady? You decide.

But while you're thinking about it, consider this: New England could have three first-round picks in the next draft. The Patriots have their own No. 1 plus the Oakland Raiders' No. 1 via the Richard Seymour deal. And they hold Carolina's second-round pick, which right now (with the Panthers at 1-11) is the first pick of the second round.

New England with three picks in the first 33, after finagling eight trades around the 2009 draft and seven this past draft -- the word you're looking for is "scary."
Big numbers

Coaches look at turnovers as a defining game statistic. The Bears continue to make significant achievements in two others regarded as key.

The offense converted 5 of 9 third downs against the Lions after just 3 of 10 vs. Philadelphia. In their five-game winning streak since the off week, the Bears have converted 36 of 68, nearly 53 percent.

As important, the Bears scored touchdowns on all three of their red-zone possessions, an area of serious concern earlier this season. The 3-for-3 day follows a 3-for-4 against Philadelphia. Since the off week they have scored touchdowns on 9 of 13 red-zone possessions and field goals on two others (vs. Minnesota).
Really big numbers

The Bears had to deal with Michael Vick two games ago and now they draw another top-rated quarterback in Tom Brady, leading the NFL with a passer rating of 109.4. Brady has thrown 27 touchdown passes and only four interceptions and is sacked only once every 22.4 pass plays.

By comparison, Jay Cutler has been sacked once every 8.8 pass plays.

"Tom Brady is a future hall of famer, maybe a first-ballot guy when he's finished playing," said safety Chris Harris. "He's arguably the greatest quarterback in the league."

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

So Jordan Howard finished second in the NFL in rushing in his rookie season, despite just a dozen carries in the first three games. The fifth-round pick joined the man who beat him out for the rushing title, Ezekiel Elliott, as one of just five rookies in history to average five or more yards per carry on over 250 carries. And he set the Bears' rookie rushing record with his 1,313 yards while becoming just the fourth in franchise history to rush for that many yards in a season.

Sounds pretty hard to top, like we might be set up for the dreaded sophomore slump.

But...

"Things are a lot different this year because I know what to expect," Howard said during the team's minicamp two weeks ago. "I know all the plays and things like that. I’m not out there thinking, so I can just play free and fast.

"I definitely feel like a veteran 'cause I know what to expect and can help the young guys on the plays that they're not understanding. I’m just more comfortable and want to be a leader."

One of the other things we learned about Howard last year is he's low-key, a man of few words. So the Indiana product by way of UAB will make his points verbally when needed, but his actions will speak louder.

"He was a rookie a year ago and didn't even go in trying to be a leader, telling a five-year guy what was up," said head coach John Fox. "I think with time, and obviously with production like he had, I think it's a role he can fall in to. We're in a performance-based business and even in that locker room, what they do on Sundays gives them some credibility."

One of the concerns about Howard coming out of college was durability, but he answered the bell once he became the starter in week four against Detroit. And he probably wasn't used nearly as much as he should have. The good news about that is he was subject to less wear and tear, averaging just 18 carries per game from that Lions game on.

But besides taking more of a leadership role, Howard wanted to work on his speed without sacrificing the strong base that, paired with keen vision and work by the offensive line, allowed him to hit holes quickly and charge toward the second level of opposing defenses.

"Just improving on the little things – my conditioning, my weight, catching passes. And looking for ways to finish runs better," says Howard. "I feel like I’m in much better shape than I was at this time last year, a little more toned-up."

"It's just training," said Fox. "When you get to that it's more like track speed than football speed and I think he proved pretty worthy of that a year ago as a rookie. Y'know we all can improve on things, and that's the expectation. He's trained hard.

"This time of year last year he wasn’t even practicing," Fox remembered. "I like where we are, we’ve brought in more competition, and he’s better for it. He’s kind of gotten used to an NFL season, he’s come back ready to roll, but he still has work to do before we get to training camp."  

Oh, and the 22-year-old has a couple of other goals he didn't mind sharing, besides being a leader and getting a little faster.

"First off, make the playoffs. Be the leading rusher, and just help the team in any way I can and stay consistent."

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Brandon Marshall is no stranger to keeping it real.

The outspoken All-Pro receiver never minces his words and that continued over the weekend when he showed off his signed jersey collection.

Marshall took to Instagram and showed off "Santa" hanging all of the jerseys he's swapped with other NFL players:

Santa doing work.. . #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

The list includes a host of current and future Hall of Fame players: Champ Bailey, Cris Carter, John Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lance Briggs, Adam Vinatieri, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Joe Thomas.

When almost all the framed jerseys were hung, Marshall took his followers through:

@nfl #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

Marshall compliments each player before, calling them "Hall of Famers" before getting to Jay Cutler at the end and going "Hall of..." multiple times.

Was that Marshall throwing shade at his former quarterback in both Denver and Chicago? If it was an innocent mistake or whatever, there's no way Marshall would've posted the Instagram video, right?

Marshall and Cutler were good friends from the beginning of their careers with the Broncos. So much so that the Bears traded a pair of third round draft picks in March 2012 to allow the two to continue their bromance by the lake:

But Marshall and Cutler have had a contentious relationship since.

Last summer, Marshall responded to a Tweet saying "of course" he misses Cutler. Last August, Marshall hopped on ESPN's First Take and said he thought Cutler could win the MVP Award in the 2016 NFL season.

At the same time, Marshall talked about his relationship with Cutler and said he was the only person on the Bears with the "huevos" to hold the enigmatic quarterback accountable. Marshall also said he was "sad" he didn't talk to Cutler much in the year leading up to August 2016.