When news broke that OT Zach Banner was going to be placed on short-term IR to begin the 2021 season, it was assumed that rookie fourth-round draft pick Dan Moore Jr. would be expected to start Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. Moore had represented himself well during preseason play and in training camp, but still was pretty raw and had the lofty task of manning Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside. Overall, it was a solid performance for Moore in his first professional regular season game. There were plenty of mistakes that have to be addressed in his game, but also some positives that show promise of what is to come from the rookie offensive tackle.
One thing that was repeatedly brought up during training camp and the preseason games was Moore’s aggressive demeanor. On this play, Moore gets out in space on the toss left to #22 Najee Harris. He locates #39 Levi Wallace coming downhill and blows him up leading up the field, putting Wallace on his back and springing Harris for a couple of extra yards on the run. This is obviously a situation Moore is expected to win with relative ease against a cornerback, but I love seeing his physicality and nastiness with his finish on the play.
Here is an All-22 look in slow motion. Notice Moore’s quickness out of his stance and athletic ability to get out in space to send Wallace flying backwards on the toss play.
There were plenty on moments Sunday where Moore got a little excited and looked like he overran the play. In the future he will need to play with more control and get to his landmarks consistently, but for his first game starting at LT, I’m willing to give him a chance to improve going forward. Here is an example where Moore climbs to the second level from the LT spot to pick up #58 Matt Milano, but Moore overruns Milano who tries to run through his left shoulder. Moore does enough to slow up Milano by extending his left arm to slow him down, but you would like to see Moore square up his blocks better going forward.
Another example later in the first quarter where he overruns #49 Tremaine Edmunds on the inside run, getting a chip on him as he runs by and gets in on the tackle to limit Najee Harris to a two-yard gain on second down.
Here is a rep in the red zone where Moore does a good job moving to the second level of the defense and picks up Matt Milano on the block, but he fails to turn Milano’s shoulder away from the running lane, allowing Milano to work off of the block as he converges on Harris who is attempting to break out of the ankle tackle by #23 Micah Hyde to plant him on the ground for a minimal gain. Should Moore and #53 Kendrick Green maintain their blocks, there is a good chance Harris shakes off the arm tackle and picks up the first down and possibly gets in the end zone.
While there were moments that Moore would be out of position on his run fits, there were plenty of other examples Sunday where Moore showcased that mobility and athleticism that made him a good fit for a zone-heavy system in OC Matt Canada’s offense. Here we see Moore climb to the second level to pick up #24 Taron Johnson. Moore could have done a better job squaring up his block to run Johnson out of the play, but the play itself was over due to the rest of the OL breaking down on their assignments.
Here is a great block by Moore as he climbs from the LT spot to pick up Edmunds in the box, contacting him with good knee bend and arms extended to ride him away from the play. Again, the play fails due to other bodies rallying to the football, but great execution by Moore on this rep.
Moore definitely earned the respect of Tremaine Edmunds on Sunday afternoon with several impressive blocks picking him up in space. Here on this successful run by Harris up the middle, Moore leaves Milano unblocked for #88 Pat Freiermuth to block, locating Edmunds and locking on to him with a good punch to his chest, shocking him back away from the play and proceeds to run him to the sideline as Najee Harris nearly picks up the first down.
When it came to pass protection, Moore experienced the same ups and downs he had when run blocking against Buffalo. There were a couple of times where Moore got exposed by the wide-9 speed rush off of the edge like on this play where #97 Mario Addison gets to Moore’s outside shoulder with the long arm, getting him turned around creating a straight lane for Addison to get to #7 Ben Roethlisberger in the pocket for the sack and forced fumble. Luckily, #76 Chukwuma Okorafor falls on the football, but Moore needs to do a better job establishing the depth of the pocket and win the corner against the speed rush.
On this missed third down conversion pass to Najee Harris in the flat, we see Moore get a good kick step to start his vertical set, but he drops his head and lunges forward on his block attempt on Addison who spins off of the failed block attempt and plants Moore on his back in the process. Moore needs to do a better job keeping his eyes up to see what he is hitting with his punch to avoid whiffing on the block and preventing the counter inside going forward.
When Moore plays with his feet and hands in unison with each other, he held his own fairly well against the pass rush Sunday afternoon. Check out this rep against #57 A.J. Epenesa where Moore is quick out of his stance with active hands and feet as he kicks back in pass protection, engaging with Epenesa and maintains a solid base in pass protection. He adjusts to Epenesa’s attempted counter back inside across his face, keeping good hand placement inside the defender’s chest to halt his pass rush.
Here is a great example later in the third quarter of Moore rebounding from his failed pass protection attempt on that inside spin move by Addison on this completed pass attempt to Najee Harris over the middle of the field. Moore gets a great vertical pass set out of his stance and is patient with his punch as he engages Epenesa on the left side. He recovers well from the outside spin move and runs him away from Ben at the top of the pocket, allowing Ben to stand in and deliver the ball to Najee Harris coming across the middle of the field.
Overall, I came away impressed with how Moore fared in his first regular season game at LT. Obviously, he had his low moments that need to be improved. However, unlike Chuks Okorafor who I wrote about earlier this week and his performance, Moore’s issues were more technical than mental. There were no concerns with effort and physicality in Moore’s play compared to Okorafor’s showing Sunday afternoon as Moore made a point to play hard and fast, emulating OL coach Adrian Klemm’s vision of a mean, nasty offensive line that displaces people off of the LOS. He has some impressive blocks working out in space and to the second level as well as showed promise in pass protection against NFL-caliber edge rushers.
Should Moore play more under control in his run fits and maintain better position in his pass sets, he could see a drastic improvement in consistency and overall play as the 2021 season progresses. For that reason, I personally would be in favor of seeing Moore keep the LT job once Banner returns and have Okorafor be relegated to the backup swing tackle role. That way you have a more physical, aggressive blocker out there to bolster the run game and give the team a chance to find out if they have a possible answer to the LT spot past 2021 or if significant draft capital should be invested there in the 2022 NFL Draft.
What are your thoughts on Dan Moore Jr.’s performance Sunday against the Bills? DO you think that he represented himself well, or are you in belief that he struggled mightily and was no better than the rest of the offensive line? Could he be the answer at LT going forward? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!