GREEN BAY - J’Mon Moore had done the hard part. He hit the jets down Ray Nitschke Field’s left sideline, running past safety Quinten Rollins. Moore had a couple steps of separation, a gimme of a catch for any professional receiver.
DeShone Kizer’s pass dropped neatly into Moore’s waiting hands, and …
Well, he caught this ball. Mercifully. Barely.
It took a little bobble Tuesday afternoon, Moore juggling the football as he crossed the goal line in one-on-one drills, but the Green Bay Packers rookie caught it. Given the month he’s had, Moore will gladly take it. No matter how unconventional his catch looked.
“I saw it in,” Moore said. “That’s the thing. Seeing the ball in, when you bobble it, you know you’re still in control because you’re seeing the ball.”
Moore, admittedly, hasn’t been seeing the football through the catch much this preseason. The fourth-round pick opened camp getting first-team reps with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A significant role in the Packers offense seemed plausible, if not likely.
Now, Moore finds himself fighting for his spot on the 53-man roster. It’s unlikely the Packers would quit on a fourth-round pick this quickly, but a receiver who doesn’t consistently catch can’t help much. Moore, who struggled with drops at times in college, missed a potential touchdown pass from quarterback Tim Boyle in the Packers' preseason opener against Tennessee. Then he dropped another last week against Pittsburgh.
Moore knows nothing is certain, not even for him. “Anybody can get cut any given day,” he said. Over these final two exhibitions, he feels pressure to play better.
“The catch is supposed to be the easy part,” Moore said. “That’s the most frustrating thing, because everybody can’t separate. People don’t get open like that. It’s hard to get open like that. So when you get open like that and you miss the play, it’s like you do all this work to get to this point and you drop it. man, it eats me up.
“But I let it eat me up to a certain extent, and then I’ve got to put it behind me.”
It’s why Moore arrived early to the practice field Tuesday, getting extra reps with the JUGS machine. He stayed late, catching more footballs. Moore only knows one way, he said. When adversity strikes – and, yes, his first preseason has been full of it – he keeps working. No looking back.
Moore has been conditioned to deal with adversity. Think a rough training camp is bad? He’s been through much worse. Moore was 13 years old when he lost his older sister to lupus. He remembers being in the car on the way to the hospital, getting a call that his sister didn’t have much time left.
“We didn’t make it in time,” Moore said. “She died on our way there.”
Five years later, Moore was a freshman at Missouri. He separated his shoulder in practice, needed surgery. His season was over. He didn’t know what would come next.
“I was out of football for the longest,” Moore said. “For like six, seven months. I had never been through anything like that.”
So, no, Moore isn’t about to quit after a few dropped passes. He’s shown the athleticism and physicality that enticed the Packers to draft him this spring.
Now, the rookie must do the easy part.
“He's going to get opportunities,” Rodgers said. “He's been making plays in practice, it's just got to transfer over in the game.”
Moore attributed part of his struggle to overthinking. Learning a new playbook, his thoughts have been spinning through camp. From the huddle to the snap, Moore said he’s constantly running the play through his mind, making sure he knows what to do.
Eventually, the game should slow down. Right now, Moore is a 3-point shooter on a cold streak. He needs to see a shot go through the basket.
“Just need that one big play,” Rodgers said. “I think just one catch and run or going up over somebody and making a big play or getting loose on the sideline. It just takes one play for some of those guys to get going, and he’s had a couple of opportunities and hasn’t made them in the game. But he’s made a lot of plays in practice, and he’s figuring out what to do and running the routes, and it’s just a matter of executing and being able to relax in those moments.
“Just the easy plays is needed at those times. Once you start to stack a couple of those plays together, he starts getting more comfortable and you’re going to see some good play out of him, I think.”
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Moore is hardly the first receiver to catch a case of the drops. Same thing happened to Davante Adams in 2015. Adams’ second NFL season couldn’t have gone worse, each week spiraling deeper and deeper.
Now, Adams is the Packers' top receiver, signing a four-year, $58 million extension late last season.
Moore said he’s gotten wisdom from his veteran teammate. He’s also talked frequently during camp with Rodgers. Recently, Moore said, the quarterback asked the rookie if he still believes he can play at this level. When Moore said he did, Rodgers agreed.
“He told me he believes I can play in this league for a long time,” Moore said.
For Moore, that’s still the focus. His confidence clearly isn’t shaken. It might be a rough month, but Moore is thinking about more than just one camp.
He has a career ahead of him. Moore believes it’s only a matter of time until he shakes himself out of this funk, becoming the receiver the Packers drafted him to be. Don’t expect he drops to last long, he said.
Just got to keep his eyes on the football.
“Once I get in that zone and I’m just playing,” Moore said, “it’s going to be bad business for DBs in this league.”