The Indianapolis Colts secondary has been an area of weakness this season, particularly at cornerback. Nate Hairston and Quincy Wilson have struggled in their sophomore seasons. The team has rotated the bottom of the depth chart with guys such as Lenzy Pipkins, Arthur Maulet, and Chris Milton. Each of these players has done little this year as well.
The two standouts have been Pierre Desir— a player who has bounced around the league a few times— and Kenny Moore II. Moore’s development into the team’s top corner has been an interesting story to follow.
Moore had a very strong off-season that left an impression on the coaching staff, and that has clearly translated to the regular season. The former UDFA has tallied 33 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 4 pass deflections. Through just seven games, his numbers have all nearly exceeded his production in 2017.
We’ll take a look at Moore’s season to see what makes him the Indy’s top corner and see if the film supports his strong statistical production.
Colts corners must excel in zone coverage to fit in a Tampa 2 defense that is designed to prevent big plays. Moore has stood out in this area and has been rewarded with considerably playing time. He has lined up in zone coverage 52.6% of the time— according to the Quant Edge— showing that the coaches trust him in zone coverage.
In this first rep, Moore is lined up in the slot and jams the inside receiver before getting into his zone. He recognizes the running back coming out of the backfield and reads quarterback Andy Dalton’s body language. He accelerates to the running back and is able to make a big interception early in the game. While Moore got lucky the quarterback got hit on the play, it was a solid read and break on the ball to be in position for the interception.
In our next clip, Moore reads the quarterback’s body language to make an interception. He is again lined up in the slot before he drops into his zone. He quickly locks on to the quarterback’s eyes and shifts to the middle as the quarterback stares down his receiver. He accelerates to the ball when it is thrown for another impressive interception. The ability to read, react, and break on the ball is a big part of what makes Moore so good in zone coverage.
This next image shows my favorite play from Moore this season. He sits back in in zone and reads the tight end drag route, exploding downhill as soon as the quarterback throws the ball. A willingness to come downhill and separate ball from receiver is vital in zone coverage and Moore does that here, de-cleating the tight end and forcing the incomplete pass in the process. This mentality is quite rare for a corner of Moore’s size.
Run Defense From The Slot
Moore has lined up most often in the slot. This isn’t because he is the best athlete or the best suited to cover slot receivers. Moore is the team’s slot corner because he is the best run defender of the Colts’ cornerback group. Yes, even at 5’9” 190 pounds. He is physical in his run fits and gets downfield in a hurry in pursuit.
In this clip, Moore diagnoses run early in the play and comes down from his slot position, into the backfield. Moore hits the running back and slows him in the hole. Anthony Walker is able to clean up the play for a minimal gain.
The next rep is similar. Moore recognizes run immediately and is able to shoot the gap to make the play. He beats the block from slot receiver Jamison Crowder and trips up Adrian Peterson in the backfield.
Zone corners must be able to make tackles in space in one-on-one situations for the scheme to work. Moore is an excellent tackler, as he takes smart angles and has discipline in space.
In our first clip, the Redskins try some trickery on 3rd and short. They toss the ball to their elusive elusive scat Chris Thompson, who is particularly good at making plays like this in space. Unfortunately for Thompson, Moore recognizes the play immediately and tracks Thompson down by taking an excellent angle. Once he closes the gap, he is able to make the tackle in the backfield.
Our next clips shows another great angle by Moore. He is lined up as the outside corner. Running back LeSean McCoy bounces the ball outside to Moore’s side of the field. Moore quickly tracks McCoy and flies downhill to make the tackle.
Moore does need to work on breaking down when tackling but his aggression, discipline, and use of good pursuit angles makes his tackling a strength.
Off Ball Man Coverage
Analysts have commonly acknowledged that Colts’ cornerbacks struggle in man coverage. While that is the case for most corners — particularly in press man — Moore does perform fairly well in off man coverage. He is comfortable when he has the chance to sit back and read the receiver and is quick to react to the receiver’s route. He is not perfect, but he is a very passable in off man coverage.
An example of Moore’s ability in off man coverage is found in our first clip. Moore is tasked with covering receiver A.J. Green in the redzone. He quickly diagnose thats Green is coming across the formation. Knowing that he has safety help toward the back of the endzone, Moore takes inside position to make the throw harder for Dalton. He gets his hands up at the last second to knock the ball away, saving a potential touchdown.
In our next clip, Moore is in off man against the slot on a fly route. Moore provides a few yards of cushion at the snap and uses that additional time to maneuver himself into the right position when the ball is thrown. Despite the ball being overthrown, this is a nice play.
Press Man Coverage
As with most Colts cornerbacks, Moore struggles in press man coverage. He is not comfortable jamming receivers at the line and is ineffective using his hands. He has a tendency to get impatient in press man coverage and that will lead him out of position. He is also simply not physical enough or fast enough to make up for any of his deficiencies. Good press man corners are typically either strong physically or have elite speed to be effective in this role.
This first clip shows some of Moore’s weaknesses. He does not get his hands up at the line, giving Paul Richardson a free release. This allow Richardson to easily sell his inside route and gain an early advantage. Without contact to slow his opponent down, Moore feels forced to bite on the inside release. Once Richardson has a step on Moore, he doesn’t have the speed to make up ground and gives up a big play.
The next clip is another example of a failure to engage his opponent at the line of scrimmage. Receiver Kelvin Benjamin is running a deep hook route to get a first down. Moore needs to disrupt the timing of the play. Even the worst of receivers in the NFL can get separation with a free release in press man coverage.
Moore’s second mistake is allowing so much space through the route. He needs to trust his safety help and know that his receiver isn’t a speed threat. This completion could have easily been prevented by Moore.
Our last clip show Moore (top of the screen) losing at the line of scrimmage. He simply cannot retreat off the line in press coverage. This may be a designed press bail play, to confuse the quarterback, but Moore gives way too much of a cushion. I’d like to see him play the route tighter against a slower receiver.
Moore has emerged as the Colts’ top cornerback in 2018. His value is aided by an ability to rotate from the slot to outside on any given play. This versatility and his leadership in the secondary is visible in his film.
Moore has developed into an excellent run defender and solid tackles, particularly from the slot. He has shown the ability to read quarterbacks, accelerate quickly to the ball, and the toughness to crash downfield to breakup intended receivers from an incoming pass. He has even shown the ability to play solid in off man coverage. There are traits that translate well to Matt Eberflus’ Tampa 2 scheme.
While he is limited in press man coverage and has some areas where he needs to improve, Moore looks like a player who will be a part of Chris Ballard’s longer-term plans moving forward. It would be wise for the Colts to add a couple of corners in the off-season, but Moore is making a strong case to be a long-term starter in the slot.