GREEN BAY – Packers receiver J’Mon Moore wasn’t happy with his rookie season. At all. As expected.
To come off back-to-back 60-catch, 1,000-yard seasons in the Southeastern Conference at Missouri and record just two catches for 15 yards as a rookie was not what he, or anyone with the Packers, had in mind.
But in his quest to bounce back in 2019, live up to his fourth-round draft status, and become a viable option in Green Bay’s offense under new Head Coach Matt LaFleur and coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, he already might have won half the battle.
How? By blaming no one but himself for the disappointment, recognizing his shortcomings, and emphasizing the adjustments to the NFL level he still must make.
In a rather brief though candid and introspective conversation with a small group of reporters just after cleaning out his locker the day after the 2018 season ended, Moore reflected on his severely limited playing time and production with noticeable clarity and self-awareness.
In the hypercompetitive business of the NFL, that alone gives him a legitimate chance to wipe the slate clean and make 2019 a truly new year.
“I’ve always been honest with myself. I’m never the type to point fingers,” Moore said. “Me knowing what I can do and what type of player I’ve always been, if I’m not playing, it’s always my fault. It ain’t nobody else’s fault but mine. I don’t blame them for it.
“I wouldn’t put me out there if I’m messing up things, not really knowing my assignments, not doing the small things right. Because that’s the difference on this level. Small things. If you’re not doing the small things right, it doesn’t come together how it needs.”
It didn’t come together for Moore because, in a nutshell, he never caught up mentally to the pro game and how Aaron Rodgers quarterbacks an offense. As a result, he couldn’t be counted on to make the proper adjustments on the fly and be in the right spot at the right time.
In discussing the speed of the game as the biggest difference between the college and NFL level, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Moore clarified it wasn’t about the physical speed but the mental speed. Everything from checks at the line to reading coverages and adjusting routes requires immediate processing, but Moore confessed he didn’t do that quickly and consistently enough to be reliable.
“Just the speed of audibles and play-calling, (you) have to know exactly what you have to do, be ready for alarms and things like that,” he said, referring to hot reads against blitzes and other impromptu scheme changes. “In college, it’s a little more … it’s a slower communication. Communication up here is real fast, real brief. You have to know what you’re doing. You don’t have any time to think.”
Fellow rookie draft picks Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimous St. Brown had to adapt to the NFL game the same way, and they simply did it faster. When the season opener rolled around, both were ahead of Moore on the depth chart, which led to them getting the game snaps when veteran receivers Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb missed time due to injuries.
That pair combined for 59 receptions, 909 yards and two TDs (both by Valdes-Scantling) while Moore’s season just never fully turned in the right direction. Rodgers and the offensive coaches spoke occasionally of some plays he was making in practice but he confessed to his share of mistakes, too. He said he never lost confidence in himself and did improve, but the other rookies also continued progressing and therefore stayed well ahead of him.
Moore understood, however frustrating the whole situation was.
“If you’re going out there having small errors left and right, you lose trust, that’s what it was for me,” he said. “Ability is there, … but A-Rod might audible something, might switch something up, and if I’m still thinking about what I’m doing at the line when he hikes the ball, I can’t be out there. They ain’t gonna let you be out there.
“That was the biggest thing for me was trust. After I kind of lost that trust, I kind of faded. That’s the big thing for me, building that trust, getting in that playbook, so when my number is called – and I know it will be called again – so when it’s called I can be prepared.”
Whether a change in the offensive system under a new head coach and offensive coordinator works for or against Moore in his second season remains to be seen. He does know he’ll have a new position coach. A tough start to his pro career has, to use Moore’s words, “built that fire up underneath” him.
It was a year of learning, growth, disappointment and regret all rolled into one for Moore. He put it on himself, and he’ll treat Year 2 the same way.
“I always have to get my craft right and work,” he said. “The big thing for me is just knowing who’s going to be here and what our system is going to be, so I can put my head in that and get a good understanding.
“So when it’s time to go, I can go.”