Washington Redskins second year offensive linemen Morgan Moses has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the preseason. This coming after a rookie season that saw Moses struggle with technique, foot quickness and strength at the point of attack. Now, the massive offensive tackle seems to be putting both the mental and physical aspects of his game together, and has established himself as a presence at right tackle, forcing a move of Brandon Scherff, the fifth overall pick of the 2015 draft, to right guard.
Let's take a look at the difference a year can make.
2014 - Footwork was a major issue for Moses during his rookie season. He was often the first player out of his stance, and this slow set-up hindered his ability to get into proper position against quick defensive ends and outside linebackers. I noticed slow feet when I studied film of Moses during his final two seasons at Virginia, but his long arms would always bail him out. I quickly identified this as an issue he would have to improve at the next level if he hoped for any type of success. Coming into his rookie season, I believed he was a player who would need at least a full season(if not more) of learning, to be ready to contribute.
2015 - I wasn't expecting the improvement in footwork early in training camp, largely in part to the Lisfranc injury he suffered at the end of last season, but as reports began to surface of his improved play, and him working with the first team at right tackle, I became intrigued as to what product I might see come that first preseason game.
Preseason is preseason, and I take a lot of it with a grain of salt, but let me say this; Moses has drastically improved his footwork from the little film I have had to evaluate. I noticed during the Browns game, that his set-up in pass pro is much more narrow, allowing him to stay more balanced and under control. His slide is shortened which allows him to keeps his hips lower, more powerful and centered under his core. He also is now sitting back in his stance, and letting his defender come to him, instead of bending, and lunging for his man(something he did a lot of last season). This in turn has allowed him to more effectively use those long arms to his advantage - he's become more reactive, being able to counter a defenders first move - and it all starts because the feet are in the right position.
I have also seen the same in the run game. Against Detroit, he did a nice job getting into position with his first step to seal his defender from the hole. Once he is in position, he uses good footwork and leverage to move his defender. His improved footwork has helped to consistently get his body into better position to position himself between the defender and the hole.
2014 - Leverage was another issue Moses had as a rookie. He would play way too high in both pass pro and run blocking. In pass protection, his base was too wide, causing him to get off balance. Combine that with slow, cumbersome feet, and he would almost always get caught playing catch-up, causing one of the biggest no-no's an offensive linemen can exhibit - waist bending. He would be forced to "lunge" at his defender, instead of sitting back into his stance and letting the defender come to him. This waist bending would make him an easy target for a counter-swim, or rip-under move by experienced pass rushers.
In in the run game, Moses didn't fire off the ball with authority. Instead, he seemed to not trust his feet, and would try to move defenders with those long arms. Problem was, he was playing too high, and not bringing the hips with him, causing him to lose his base, and generate little power.
2015 - I have been extremely impressed with how Moses is coming off the ball and attacking his defender in the run game. He playing with a much lower base, and he's generating movement on contact. When he fires off the ball, his hips are under his chest and he's displaying an upward, vs outward strike. This has allowed him to stand his defender up, and control them with proper hand and foot placement.
In pass set-up, he has displayed the ability to sit back into his stance with chest over hips and mirror his opponent instead of "lunging". If the defender tries to engage him immediately, he shoots those long arms out to keep him at bay. If a player attacks his outside, he stays low, slides into position, and uses the arms to ride him past the pocket.
2014 - Moses came into the league with the body type coaches salivate over, but the fundamental strength was lacking. He didn't have great lower-body power, which was evident when he would attempt to drive-block. His upper body, although very long, lacked needed power at the point of attack. His hands seems slow and weak to me.
2015 - Now, without being around the player, it's hard to judge strength, but if looks are half the equation, than Moses passes the first part of this test. He entered the preseason noticeably bigger and more defined in the upper body. This is great, but the key would be if it translates to his game on the field.
From the first few plays of the Browns game, I immediately noticed a different player. I noticed some nastiness that I had not seem from him previously, and an attitude, or even confidence, that he exuded. This carried over to Thursday's game against Detroit. I believe this can be attributed to added strength and a body transformation that has helped the young athlete become a more physical presence on the offensive line. His drive blocking has greatly improved, and the core strength that was once a issue, has turned into a attribute. To put it in the most simple terms, the kid is exploding into his defenders, bringing his hips with him, and moving mountains.
In pass protection I have noticed that he is much more active with his hands. Now, as I previously stated, he's improved his footwork and leverage, but now he's adding a vicious hand punch to keep defenders at bay. Before, he would "lunge" for guys, mainly because he was often off-balance, but now that he improved in these two areas, he can sit back and shoot those hands into the defender, often knocking him off balance. This new strength has to add more confidence to his game.
2014 - Moses was a large lump of clay that needed a pottery master like Chris Cooley to mold him into an effective offensive tackle. Most knew it would take time before he was ready to contribute, and some had doubts that he would ever be much more than a reserve in this league.
2015 - Instead of Chris Cooley spinning the pottery wheel, we got Bill Callahan, who in his own right must be one hell of a sculpter. In the short time he has been the Redskins offensive line coach, Callahan has turned the impossible into the probable. Moses is becoming a work of art at right tackle. He has greatly improved his body, mind and attitude.
He he is now playing the position with much more confidence, strength and technique. This transformation has allowed us to move Brandon Scherff inside to guard - a position many felt he would excel at - and leave Moses on the outside where he belongs. Not since Jon Jansen retired have the Redskins had a young, promising right tackle to develop. Moses is not there yet, but the signs are all pointing in the right direction.
Could we have finally found our young bookend to pair with the great Trent Williams? Only time will tell.