Zach Moore Ready To Be Next Man Up For Patriots With Chandler Jones Injured

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Stephen Gostkowski, Zach Moore, Danny AmendolaFOXBORO, Mass. — Sunday afternoon might feel like a bizarro dream for Zach Moore.

The New England Patriots’ rookie defensive end was a huge Bears fan while growing up on the south side of Chicago, and now his goal will be to cause his former favorite team to lose.

“Loved the defense,” Moore said in the Patriots’ locker room Wednesday. “I still kinda am a Bears fan. I love the Bears, but it’s Pats Nation.”

Moore’s family still cheers on the Bears, too, but they’ll be out in full force at Gillette Stadium wearing navy and red — not orange.

That Moore likely will draw the heaviest playing time of his short career against the Bears seems like fate, but it also shows how far the sixth-round draft pick has come in the past year. The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder played at tiny Division II Concordia University-St. Paul, and now he’ll play on the same field as Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, one of his favorite players while growing up.

“That’s crazy when I think about it,” Moore said. “I was actually thinking about it (Wednesday) at practice when I was walking on the field. I was thinking at this time last year, I was playing at a Division II college stadium in front of no more than like, 1,000 people. Kind of a reality check.”

Moore has been eased into his NFL career, but now he’s about to be thrown into the fire. Starting right defensive end Chandler Jones reportedly is likely to miss a month with a hip injury, and it sounds like Moore and fellow rookie Dominique Easley will be tasked to take the veteran’s place. Moore almost certainly will play on third down, when the Patriots need big, athletic bodies to get after Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

Moore has played just 28 snaps in three games this season, but he’s as ready as he’ll ever be to step in for Jones.

“You gotta be the next man up,” Moore said. “Guys go down left and right, so you gotta be able to fit in where you can, take your opportunity, because you never know where you can get another one. Just trying to stay prepared and go out to practice every day and just show that I can step up and be there for the defense.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn’t sound ready to give Moore a full share of snaps just nine days ago, but this is what happens when the most able-bodied backup is a rookie with little experience.

“Zach is making a big jump from the level that he played at last year to the NFL to the weekly changing offenses and defensive game plans and so forth that all go into that,” Belichick said last Tuesday. “But I think he’s worked really hard, both at his individual fundamental techniques which he needs a lot of work on but also the overall scheme and variations of the scheme from week to week, game plan variations that he has to, I’d say, learn and become familiar with.

“He works hard. He’s a smart kid. I don’t think that’s the issue. It’s just his experience is improving every week. He still has a long way to go.”

Photo via Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

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