FOXBORO, Mass. — It should be easy to overlook Zach Moore after the New England Patriots drafted four defensive linemen in the 2015 NFL Draft and added pass rusher Jabaal Sheard in free agency.
Moore, a 2014 sixth-round draft pick, is tough to miss out on the Patriots practice field, however, standing a head taller than his teammates at 6-foot-6 and looking more filled out than his listed 275-pound weight.
“I added a lot of good weight just to help me play both inside and outside, (five-technique defensive end and three-technique defensive tackle),” Moore said Thursday after organized team activities. “So at this weight, I’m much stronger and better than I was last year.”
Moore was wise to pack on some extra pounds over the offseason, since the Patriots’ traditional pass-rushing spot is looking mighty crowded after the Patriots drafted Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers and Xzavier Dickson. Starters Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are back for another year and Sheard is expected to see plenty of opportunities as a situational pass rusher.
“It kinda just happened,” Moore said about adding bulk. “I wanted to put more good weight on for myself, especially to play more in the three technique and the sub packages and stuff like that. I haven’t missed a step. I’m still playing the same if not even better. I just feel great.”
Moore’s path to a spot on the Patriots’ 53-man roster could be at defensive tackle after primarily playing end last season. The Patriots lack big, long interior defenders like Moore, and right now, they’re shallow at the position in general. Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch have been sitting out of OTAs, and Vince Wilfork is gone to the Houston Texans. The Patriots are left with just Moore, Dominique Easley, Antonio Johnson, Joe Vellano and rookies Malcom Brown and Vince Taylor.
Vellano, a third-year veteran, has been forced to take on a leadership role.
“As young as Joe is, you’re right, of the guys out there the past couple of days, Joe is one of the guys who gives us a little leadership,” defensive assistant Brendan Daly said Thursday. “Joe’s been around here, he knows the calls, he knows the system fairly well. He’s been really good to have around.”
The Patriots’ lack of bodies along their defensive line has given Moore added reps in practice, which can only help him become more comfortable in New England’s defense with only one season under his belt after being drafted from tiny Division-II Concordia-St. Paul.
“The more reps you get, the more you’re able to understand the game and the defense itself,” Moore said. “So I would say all those reps are definitely helping me in my development.”
Daly, who serves as the team’s defensive line coach, is already seeing an improvement in Moore, who basically redshirted last season, playing just 96 snaps and recording 0.5 sacks with four quarterback hurries.
“He’s worked hard, and I think you can see a difference,” Daly said. “Everything’s not new to him this year, not that he’s got it all figured out by any means, but you can see a learning curve and an evolution there, and he did a great job working hard through the offseason and continues to. He’s changed his body a little bit. Hopefully that will serve him well.”
Moore’s impressive size, athleticism and upside should help him compete for a roster spot against teammates Branch, Jones, Vellano, Johnson and Taylor. And even though the Patriots are only in shorts and T-shirts right now, every rep counts.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@zachmoore_90
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