Holy Moses: Young linebacker impresses

Holy Moses: Young linebacker impresses

Every once in a while in the Green Bay Packers locker room, someone will get ahold of the sound system and pipe music over the loudspeakers. Most times, the music doesn’t exactly fit the venue – say, the time USA for Africa’s We Are The World blared for the full 7 1/2 minutes, or when the satellite radio somehow found its way to the adult contempo channel and Air Supply filled the room.

And then, there was the other day, as undrafted rookie free agent outside linebacker Dezman Moses sat in the back corner of the auxiliary locker room while Flo Rida’s Good Feeling was playing. As the sample of Etta James from her 1962 song Something’s Got a Hold on Me drowned out Moses’ words, it could not have been more appropriate.

Sometimes … I get a good feeling, yeah
I get a feeling
That I never, never knew, never had before
No, no
I get a good feeling

Moses, meanwhile, was talking about his chances of making the team’s 53-man roster. He was saying what he was supposed to say when a TV reporter asked him if he was nervous as the mandatory roster cuts approached.

“It’s nerve-wracking, but you can’t control it,” Moses dutifully replied. “The only thing that you can do is play your best every day. You go out there and focus and give it your all and you hope and pray that they see that and see something that they can use or they need you around here for.”

Rest assured, the Packers have seen something they can use and something they need from Moses.

He wasn’t part of the 15 roster moves the team made this week to get down to the required 75-man roster limit, and as long as he comes out of Thursday’s preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs healthy, he won’t be going anywhere when the final roster cuts are made to the 53-player limit before Friday’s 8 p.m. deadline.

That’s not because of the potential he’s shown as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, an area of desperate need for this team – even though he’s made the transition from defensive end at Tulane look easy, perhaps in part because he played linebacker initially at Iowa before transferring.

It’s not because he has been impressive the moment he arrived — from the rookie orientation camp, to organized team activity practices, to the mandatory minicamp, to putting the pads on in training camp, to preseason games – and elevated his game at every turn, although he’s done just that.

It’s because Moses fully grasps what has become very clear in coach Mike McCarthy’s program: If you don’t make a name for yourself on special teams, you won’t play.

“Special teams, it’s an important part of the game. It’s something that is essential to all good teams,” said Moses, who made his first in-game impression on special teams when he drove a would-be blocker right into the returner in San Diego in the Aug. 9 preseason opener. “Coaches are looking for guys who play fast and play physical – and that’s something I feel I can do well and do do well.

Ever since Dom Capers came to Green Bay in 2009 and brought his 3-4 defense with him, there have been young, under-the-radar outside linebacker who has made the team coming out of training camp. In 2009, it was seventh-round pick Brad Jones. In 2010, it was undrafted free agent Frank Zombo. Last year, two undrafted free agents – Vic So’oto and Jamari Lattimore – did it.

While Jones has developed into a good special-teamer and Lattimore had a key role on the units last year, So’oto, despite making a terrific impression in preseason games on defense, struggled on special teams and saw very little action in regular-season play. This year, he’s on the roster bubble after the team drafted Nick Perry in the first round and Moses impressed.

So how has Moses avoided simply being the latest rookie outside linebacker flavor of the month? On Aug. 2, head coach Mike McCarthy was asked about how impressive Moses had been as an outside linebacker. He was already working with the No. 2 defense behind star Clay Matthews, but McCarthy’s answer didn’t focus on that.

“I’m curious to see him play on special teams once we get to the preseason games,” McCarthy said. “I think there’s some questions of inexperience there.”

Not anymore. Last Thursday at Cincinnati, Moses was on all four of the No. 1 special teams units – kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return. While he was only on kickoff coverage at Tulane, he did all four special teams at Iowa.

“I think he’s improved with each game. He’s tough, he’s physical, he’s shown the ability to cover and he’s shown the ability to block,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said of the 6-foot-2, 249-pound Moses. “He can do the things that we need to do on special teams.”

Said Moses: “Coach Slo, he’s entrusted me with a lot right now and I’m definitely up for the challenge. That’s an honor for me to be a rookie and for him to feel comfortable putting me in that position. He always talks about speed and physicality, and if there’s one thing that I try to do when I’m out there, it’s definitely be physical. That’s the way I believe you should play football. It’s the only way to do it.”

By the way, Moses also had a team-best four tackles on defense, including one for loss, and also registered a quarterback pressure and knocked down a pass.

“I’d say Dezman has picked up the scheme defensively and on special teams at very high rated and that’s been very impressive,” McCarthy said earlier this week. “You could see that during the offseason program. He understands football. He has some history in the 3-4 at Iowa. He continues to get better. I thought he had a good night (on Thursday).”

Now, it’s more of an issue of whether Moses will have an impact in the regular season than whether he’ll make the team. Although at this point, he’s not thinking about it – or thinking that he has the team made.

“You can’t think that. Nothing is guaranteed,” Moses said. “This is the National Football League. No one is promised anything, even vets, so I never relax. I never let any complacency set in, just because that’s the way you have bad days or off-practices. I believe if you stay focused on it, you get better every day, then you shouldn’t have any bad practices, which leads to not having any bad games. That’s how I feel.

“Personally, I try to take things one day at a time and try to get a little bit better because if you just add a little bit … it’s like a piggy bank. You put a little bit in each day, it’ll build up over time. For me, I just try to build my game a little bit each day.

“I’m not the fastest guy, I’m not the most athletic guy, I just have to do things right. And for me, learning and being able to grow each day is what’s gotten me to this point, and hopefully it can continue for years. The more experience you get in this league, the more things you see, I try to be a student of the game, work hard and be a better me every day.”