When Sio Moore was drafted in the 3rd round, he stated that he was the best linebacker in the draft. And then he famously proclaimed that he was out to prove it by "Bbringing the Juice" to Oakland. Fans that have dealt with erratic, undisciplined, inconsistent, and lackadaisical play at the linebacker position, this was like water to a thirsting man.
But the proof was yet to come. Would Sio prove to be that kind of an impact player or would he be another mediocre player.
It's too early to make any definitive proclamation on Sio, but the early reports are good.
First of all, the team defense overall is far ahead of where it was early last year. Last year, there were lots of assignment issues, discipline (on field) problems, and general lack of unified play. Last year's defensive squad was filled with hold-over players, many of whom seemed indifferent and some seemed unwilling to buy into the new scheme. They are now all gone.
This year, with 9 new starters (10 after Tyvon Branch's injury), there is actually BETTER unity than there was last year. The defensive line was remade with no-name players who pundits dismissed out of hand. Who the Hell are Jason Hunter, Vance Walker, and Pat Sims? As the Dread Pirate Roberts might respond, "No one of consequence."
And while they may not have been impact players on their own, together with Lamar Houston, they have already shown signs of being a very effective front line. They have been disruptive and more importantly, they have been very good at protecting the linebackers.
This last point is important in considering how Sio Moore is performing. If he were dealing with an irresponsible, unfocused, and uncaring group of linemen in front of him, it doesn't matter how much talent he has; he will not show well at all. For example, recall that Ray Lewis seemed on his last legs in the years between Siragusa/Sam Adams and Haloti Ngata.
Now, when the front line defenders are doing their job and occupying blocks and controlling their gaps, it gives second level players like Moore, Roach, and Burnett a very predictable space in which to work. and when it all goes right, it leaves them free to run and attack the ball.
While the Raiders' Defense is still going to be growing and surely there will be some pains along the way as they face ever more daunting offenses, the first steps this year have been very positive.
First, Sio Moore's vitals :
Ht/Wt: 6'1", 245 lbs
40 yard : 4.65 (5th best at the Combine among LBs)
Bench Reps : 29 (2nd best at the Combine among LBs)
Vertical : 38" (3rd best at the Combine among LBs)
Moore has good size and excellent speed, strength measurables, and explosiveness measurables. And the best part is that these have translated well on the field.
Aaron Curry had 4.4 speed and yet he never seemed to be that fast on the field. 4.40 means that he should have legitimate sideline-to-sideline footspeed and should be able to be in on every play. But, whether it was reaction time, diagnosing plays, running thru traffic, or something else, he just never seemed quite that fast.
Sio Moore, on the other hand, at times seems like he teleports from one place to the next. He's not blazing fast, but there are many times when he is able to attack across the field. All of a sudden, there he is, making the play and you are left wondering, "Wait! Where'd Sio come from?"
And perhaps the best is that it's not even fully actuallized yet. There are also times, when he doesn't quite get the jump on the play that he could. As smart and hard-working as he reportedly is, as he grows more familiar with both the defensive scheme and the opposing offenses' approaches, he will be playing even faster than he is right now.
Let's look at 3 plays against the Jaguars
Play 1 : Backside Pursuit
MJD is going to run the zone play off tackle. Moore is left unblocked on the backside and is in Chase Mode. When Jason Hunter blows up the lead blocker, it forces MJD to cutback. But there's no time, because Sio is there, delivering the Juice.
On a side note : What the Hell is Luke Joeckel doing? He does something really strange and ends up (a) leaving Hunter free and (b) tripping his own fellow linemen.
Moore is scraping down the line while Hunter is attack the FB:
Hunter engages the FB and forces a cutback. but here's Sio :
Play 2 : Backside Chase again
Again, The Jags run the off-tackle Zone, but this time Joeckel doesn't get confused. They get hat-on-hat and get a good hole opened. Sio attacks down the line.
Side note : Nick Roach gets caught as a spectator on this play. He's lagging back when he should be attacking; the big hole that opens up should be filled by him. This wastes a great job by Pat Sims in occupying two blockers that are Chop Blocking him. On his way down, Pat Sims gets away with a grab on the Center's collar, keeping him from releasing and blocking Roach. Good job, Pat. Wake up, Nick!
See the big hole and see Sio scraping down again. Also notice where Nick Roach (far right) is and where Pat Sims is (right in the middle of the picture).
Unfortunately, Sio gets an arm around MJD, but isn't able to get him down. MJD gets a decent gain until Roach and Jenkins make the tackle.
Sio was just a hair late and MJD's tree trunk legs were just strong enough to shed him.
Next time, Sio.
Play 3 : Cross Field Chase
This time the Raiders are not undershifted so Sio is playing at depth. Again the Jags run the off-tackle. They execute most of it very well, getting a wham block on Lamar and pulling LT Eugene Monroe to pick off the corner on that side. But Kevin Burnett throws aside the attempted block by the WR cracking down on him. #94 is then able to make the play. At the same time, Moore explodes across the field and cleans it up.
MJD is running free, as is Sio. Notice Kevin Burnett tossing aside the attempted block by the WR.
Burnett and Sio combine on the open field tackle. Note that in space, it's key to play to leveage. Kevin Burnett was able to attack the outside hip/shoulder in his tackle, knowing that there was help to the inside. This is called "Team Defense" and was virtually foreign in Oakland the past several years.
Point of Attack
6'1" 245 is good size. But it's not what you would consider big for a linebacker. Rolando was 6'4", 255 lbs. That was Big. With that kind of size and strength, Rolando should have been able to man up and blow up blockers and totally disrupt the offensive line. And at times last year, we saw that. But apparently, he didn't like doing the dirty work because we all know what happened.
Sio doesn't have that kind of size, but what he does have is The Juice. In this case, he brings very good strength combined with a total commitment to the task at hand. Sio isn't half-heartedly taking on the blockers, he's going for broke and looking to rock that blocker's world. And at times he does so.
Most of the time, a Strong Side Linebacker will get TE duty (in this case, #87 A Reisner), but he will also at times have to deal with an offensive lineman or two (like Luke Joeckel).
Play 1 : Taking on the TE
Jags are running off tackle again. Moore is on the TE and he is able to hold the point of attack and then fight to gain the outside leverage to force the play back inside. Moore doesn't make the tackle, but his work makes the play.
Note : Allen Reisner is listed at 6'3", 255 lbs.
Sio engaged with the TE without giving ground.
Sio fighting for outside leverage. Notice how he gets his head outside the blocker.
Turning the play back inside where there is help from Pat Sims and Jason Hunter.
Play 2 : Taking on the TE again
This time the play is to the defensive right. Sio takes on the TE and again will play outside ("Squeezing the play" or "Playing the Squeeze"). Again the RB has to turn it back inside where there are Raiders pursuing. Team Defense, again.
Sio is taking it to the TE, two-gapping and reading the play.
Sio is able to disengage as he needs to and forces the RB to turn it back inside.
Gang Tackle. No Tackle stat for Sio, but as we can see, Sio was instrumental in this play.
Play 3 : Taking on the RT Luke Joeckel
In the Silver Corner : Sio Moore, 6'1", 245 lbs
In the Blue Corner, Luke Joeckel, 6'6", 306 lbs
In this play the TE is going to jump out on the Corner which leaves Sio to take on Luke Joeckel. This should be a mismatch since Joeckel has 60+ lbs on Sio.
Sio gets low and explodes into Jockel as the play heads that way :
Sio is able to fight Joeckel well.
Sio gives up some lateral movement, but is able to anchor and then disengage and jump inside. He doesn't make the play (Jason Hunter and Vance Walker do), but Moore does an admirable job of taking on a much bigger man.
Sio Moore is in his 3rd game upcoming and he's already one of the more exciting players on the team. He has a wealth of talent and the type of All-In work ethic that can win over the entire fanbase. He's a hardworker and he's growing into being a definite play-maker on a defense that is getting production from the unlikeliest of sources. As this defensive unit continues to grow and as there is more and more influx of talent, we should see the run defense continue to improve. And Sio Moore is going to be a major component of that for a long time!