Raise your hand if you expected the Bengals to select a wide receiver in one of the early rounds of last month’s NFL draft.
I’ll admit that my hand is up and while Cincinnati did grab West Virginia speedster Mario Alford with their final pick, it’s worth noting that there’s another new receiver on the roster with the proven ability to stretch the field.
26-year-old Denarius Moore signed a one-year deal with the Bengals as a free agent in early April after spending his first four NFL seasons in Oakland.
“I’m loving it so far,” Moore told me. “I like everything that I’m seeing and it’s a great environment. The people here welcome you with open arms and make sure that you’re comfortable.”
Moore made several catches on Tuesday when the Bengals opened OTAs – the only practice this week that reporters were allowed to attend.
“I think he did some good things,” said offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. “Obviously he has to continue to learn to play at our pace and adjust to the way we go about doing things. Maybe things are a little bit different than they were in Oakland, but I think he has talent.”
“You see glimpses of it,” said receivers coach James Urban. “He’s not consistent enough yet, and he would be the first person to tell you that, but there are glimpses where you say, ‘That’s the guy.’ We just need to keep trying to get to the point where it’s showing up more and more.”
The Raiders drafted Moore out of Tennessee in the 5th round in 2011 after he averaged 17.9 yards per catch in his college career and was timed at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. Jackson was Oakland’s head coach in Moore’s first season, and was a key reason why he wanted to play in Cincinnati.
“That was huge,” said Moore. “I feel like he understands me and understands what I can do.”
“I know there are things that he does really well, and we’re going to put him in those situations,” said Jackson.”
“Early in his career when we was with Hue it clicked for him,” said Urban. “Hopefully we get the same result. That’s why you take a guy like him who has some experience. You hope that it clicks again.”
Moore had 33 catches for 618 yards (18.7 ypc) and 5 touchdowns playing for Jackson as a rookie in 2011, but posted even better stats under Dennis Allen the next two years when he averaged 48.5 catches for 718 yards (14.8 ypc) and 6 TD. But his numbers plummeted last season when Allen was fired after four games as Denarius finished with 12 catches for 115 yards and 0 TD.
“I’m still trying to figure it out, but at the same time I’m trying to forget about it,” said Moore. “I guess I let it mess with my confidence which I’m trying to get back now.”
“He was a very productive guy for a couple of years and then it sort of got away,” said Urban. “I’m just hoping we can get it back. That’s the goal. You’ve got a veteran guy who knows how to play and it won’t be too big for him. Maybe we can get back whatever what was lost.”
“It starts with making plays,” said Jackson. “That’s the case with any good football player. When you start to make plays, the confidence starts to come and he made some big catches today. It was good to see. But he has to continue to grind and we’ll build this thing over time.”
The Bengals typically keep six wide receivers on the 53-man roster and A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu are locks for half of those spots if healthy. That puts Moore in the mix for one of the final three openings with (alphabetically) Alford, Cobi Hamilton, Jake Kumerow, Tevin Reese, Brandon Tate, and James Wright.
“Any time before you come in and sign a contract, you look at the depth chart and see who you’re going to be competing with,” said Moore. “I don’t really know where I am on that depth chart right now, I’m just looking to come in and compete.
“I’m looking forward to training camp. With the defense we’re in right now, you really can’t see that much until we put on the pads. That’s the time when I can really showcase my talent.”
“We’ve got on our shorts right now and we’re trying to learn our system and how we do things, but as we get closer to training camp, that’s when guys really have to show what they have,” said Jackson. “I think he has some abilities, so we’ll see how it all unfolds.”
After injuries devastated the wide receiver corps in last year’s playoff loss to the Colts, the Bengals are determined to improve the depth at that position this season.
Can Moore return to the form that he flashed in his first three NFL seasons?
“Yes, but that was in the past,” said Moore. “This is a ‘what have you done for me now’ type of league, so I’m just looking forward to a new start. I worked as hard as I could in the offseason and I’m coming back strong. “
“I think he’s going to be good as soon as he gets comfortable with everything that we’re doing,” said Andy Dalton. “Obviously he’s been in Hue’s system before and he played well in it. The more he gets thrown in, the more we’ll be able to see from him, but I think he’s going to be a good help for us.”
“I’m just looking to be another piece of the puzzle,” Moore told me. “If they’re missing a piece, I’d be more than happy to apply for it.”
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