Bill Belichick has a tendency to surprise people, but there always seems to be a method to his madness. That's why, although cornerback Sterling Moore's release on Wednesday did come as a surprise, there had to be some thought behind the move.
Moore, a second-year defensive back who went undrafted out of SMU, was the unexpected hero of last year's AFC Championship game. His swipe of Lee Evans' potential go-ahead touchdown was certainly the highlight of his rookie season, but there were plenty of question marks surrounding his play as well.
Moore was released four different times during the 2011 season, twice by the Raiders and twice more by the Patriots, before eventually sticking in New England. This season, Moore carved out a solid role as the Patriots' nickel cornerback. He has developed into a fairly reliable contributor in an otherwise underachieving secondary, only furthering the curiosity of his release.
The Patriots boast the fifth-worst passing defense in the NFL, allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for 281 yards per game, against a secondary that's been hampered by injuries in recent weeks.
Moore has been among those ailing, dealing with a recurring knee injury since early in the season. Patrick Chung, Steven Gregory, Marquice Cole and Kyle Arrington have all been sidelined for varying amounts of time this season. Moore's release could be a sign of improving health for some if not all of those players, which would help tighten up that defensive unit.
The other thought behind the move could be the need of special teams help, considering injuries to Cole, Arrington and rookie running back Brandon Bolden leaves the specialists a bit limited. The addition of both Mike Rivera and Derrick Martin could help fill that void for the time being. Moore, who still has practice squad eligibility (although limited), could be given some additional time to rehab.
Moore's release definitely isn't a very popular move, especially as Patriots fans continue clamoring for solutions in the secondary. But there had to be a specific thought and scheme behind it.
With Belichick's track record in similar in-season moves, it makes sense to give him the benefit of the doubt in situations like this. There's obviously a much more pertinent need at the current time, and there's definitely some genius behind such a peculiar decision.
Either way, you've got to trust that this was the correct decision, and that Moore will clear waivers and be back on the practice squad before the week's out. It's a risk, but if it means a win, then it's one well worth taking.