J'Mon Moore determined to build off 'best practice,' get off wide receiver bubble
GREEN BAY – J’Mon Moore couldn’t sleep Saturday night. For a receiver firmly on the bubble, a receiver whose rookie season yielded 74 snaps and only two catches, a receiver whose preseason debut last week was described as only “so-so” by his head coach, insomnia isn’t surprising.
Lying there, thoughts racing, Moore said he had “a talk” with himself.
“I thought about a lot of things,” he said. “What I want people to think of me when I’m done with this game.”
If something doesn’t change, that time (at least with the Packers) might be coming.
Moore was a fourth-round pick in 2018, drafted ahead of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. While they had solid rookie seasons and are ascending in their second camp, Moore remains squarely on that bubble. It’s possible he’s running out of chances.
“I feel,” Moore said, “like a lot of people are frustrated with me, and I’d be frustrated too. Especially me knowing what I can do, and what they brought me here for.”
So Moore had that talk with himself. He lost sleep. He arrived at practice Sunday morning, in his words, looking “scruffy.”
Then he had perhaps his best practice since entering the NFL.
At the very least, coach Matt LaFleur said, it was the best practice he’s seen from his young receiver. There was Moore in the Packers’ third-down drill, catching a slant from quarterback Manny Wilkins to convert a simulated third-and-five. There was Moore a little later, an 18-yard reception on a deep crossing route from Tim Boyle on first-and-10. A few reps after that, Moore caught an 8-yard out from Boyle on another first-and-10.
Moore did what he was brought here to do Sunday. He made plays, and he did it consistently. LaFleur, perhaps sensing his young receiver could use the confidence boost, gushed after practice.
“I thought today,” LaFleur said, “he came out with a whole different energy. And I thought his play reflected that. He made some nice plays in there today. The game went a little so-so for him versus the Texans, but I thought if he attacks practice like he did today, with that energy, with that attitude, he’s a talented guy. So he got better today, and that’s what the challenge is for him each and every day.
“I thought it was the best practice he’s had all year."
The caveat: It was just one practice. Moore’s one-day resurgence might have come too late. Certainly, he’ll need to string together multiple practices like Sunday's, and flash in these last three preseason games, to ever leave that anxiety-riddled bubble.
Moore is facing plenty of pressure at his position, some of it unexpected. As he has struggled with inconsistency, undrafted rookie Darrius Shepherd has given himself a chance to make the roster, even if it’s remote.
Already ascending through the first two weeks of camp, Shepherd put himself on his coaches’ radar with a touchdown against the Texans, adjusting to snare a pass quarterback DeShon Kizer later admitted was a few inches too high.
“A heck of a catch,” LaFleur called it.
Allen Lazard, whom the Packers signed to their active roster from the Jacksonville Jaguars' practice squad at the end of 2018, has also impressed. Lazard caught a touchdown pass in the second half Thursday and, like Shepherd, also provides some special-teams value, undoubtedly his primary responsibility if he cracks the 53.
“He always brings energy,” LaFleur said. “He always brings great effort. It certainly showed itself in the game. All you gotta do is turn on the kickoff cover, and he’s the first guy down there every time. We’re going to reward guys that go hard and are what we want to be about. That’s why he’s getting more reps. He’s earned those reps.”
For Shepherd and Lazard, their trajectory in this camp are pointing up. Moore’s, at least before Sunday, was more static. It’s not an ideal position this late into his career. And Moore knows.
That’s why he’s pressing. Always trying to make a big play. Trying to show what he can do. Trying, perhaps, to make up for what he has not yet done. “Too antsy,” Moore said. His mind doesn’t just race when he can’t fall asleep.
“The biggest thing with me, I think,” he said, “is just relaxing and letting it ride. Me being me, you know. Sometimes, I just be out there playing, and my mind be somewhere else. I might be a little too anticipating, too antsy. I’ve just got to relax and be who I am, you know.
“They drafted me for a reason, and I’ve got a talent that’s behind that. I’ve just got to bring it out, be consistent, and I’m going to make it work for sure – for a long time.”
It’s a damning thing, not being able to concentrate during practice. Moore knows it’s an obstacle he must clear, but it won’t be easy. To fix a problem, you must first uncover why the problem exists.
What, exactly, distracts Moore at practice?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think I just kind of worry about things that I shouldn’t even worry about, and my mind just be all over, instead of me just relaxing and slowing the game down like I can, like I did in college. I kind of just be anticipating too much, being too antsy, too ready to make something happen, instead of letting the game just come to me. So that’s something that I’m working on, and when I can master that skill on this professional level, I’ll be dangerous.”
Until then, Moore might be his own biggest obstacle. It’s the simple plays he needs to make, like the dropped touchdown pass early in the third quarter Thursday, the one Moore compared to a wide-open layup in basketball.
“Something I could do in my sleep,” Moore said.
Even when Moore caught a touchdown pass a couple plays later, spiking the football in disgust and walking by himself toward the sideline, the young receiver didn’t catch it cleanly. Watch the replay. Moore adjusted the football in his hands before possessing it.
“I think sometimes,” Moore said, “I just take it for granted, like I’m not focused on the look-it-in and squeeze the ball or catching it and tuck it. Sometimes, I’m like catching it and hold it out. So that’s just something that I’ve got to work on. Something that I have been working on.”
It’s time to stop taking anything for granted. Moore knows it. Now, he has to do it.
Just like he did Sunday.