The 2019 Indianapolis Colts season has been hard to stomach for Colts’ fans. From the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck to the bleak injury reports to the lackluster passing game, the team has had moments where it has been hard to watch the games on Sunday. One of the brightest spots on the team, though, has been the play of slot corner Kenny Moore II. After signing a big four year, 33 million dollar extension in the offseason, Moore II started this season a bit slowly. Lately, though, he has been worth every cent of that contract.
In today’s film room, we will be looking at the strong play at cornerback by Moore II and talk about why he is one of the league’s best slot corners.
Despite measuring in at just 5’9” 180 pounds, Moore II is one of the more physical cornerbacks in the league. This strength in his game shows up primarily in run defense. He is excellent at setting a hard edge on the outside and does not hesitate to get involved in the tackle. Here is a perfect example of that. Moore shoots to the outside at the snap as he reads the stretch play all the way. He effortlessly ducks under a block from the tight end and gets himself in position to force the run play back to his help on the interior. As the running back nears the hole, he is then able to make contact and get the stop on the play. He plays this one perfectly within his assignment and makes the tackle for a loss.
While working within your assignment is great, it is also great to take chances and be aggressive on defense. Moore is excellent at knowing when to take these chances and he is a reliable enough tackler to make plays. Here he is on the outside of the screen as the Texans run an off tackle rush. He recognizes the play-call quickly and flies downhill toward the ball carrier. Rather than worrying about outside contain, he gets into the backfield and disrupts the rush. He forces the running back to cut back before he tosses a tight end to the ground and makes the tackle. Very aggressive play by Moore II to come downhill, and an even better tackle to make the play.
In obvious run situations, most teams would pull their undersized slot corner off the field for another linebacker or defensive lineman. Not the Colts. Moore II slides inside as a linebacker on this play and doesn’t miss a beat. He quickly reads the run and crashes to the outside of the play. Right as the running back cuts to the outside, Moore is waiting to make the quick tackle. When you combine great recognition skills with the aggressiveness of a former UDFA, you get a great run defender in Kenny Moore II.
While run defense is great for a cornerback, it’s also important that they be able to tackle in the open field. In the Colts’ zone-heavy scheme, corners have to be able to come up and make tackles in space to prevent first downs. Moore II is elite in this area. Look at this first clip for instance. This is an insanely difficult play for a corner, as he needs to fight through two receiver picks to get to the flats to his receiver. He is able to fight down the line and accelerate effortlessly to the receiver just as the ball arrives. The receiver makes the catch, but is unable to turn around and get the extra yard needed for the first down due to the tackling ability of Moore II. This is an elite play in space by a very good cornerback.
While that last clip was just a receiver in space, Moore II also shows this ability against running backs in the open field. Here, the Dolphins dump it down on a swing pass to their big running back on the right of the screen. Moore II is sitting back in his soft zone and comes up to make the tackle in the open field. Despite being much, much smaller, he is able to go low and hang on for dear life as he makes the tackle for a very short gain. It is impressive for a corner to tackle a receiver in space, but to stuff a running back for such a short gain? Incredible!
Alright let’s get even crazier. How about a fullback in space?! Yes, Kenny Moore II can even bring down much larger fullbacks in the open field for short gains. Here, against the Broncos, Moore II is tasked with covering the fullback on a third and short. The fullback catches the ball in space and has his every dream come true as he stares down a small cornerback in space. Moore, however stonewalls the play , going low on the fullback and wrapping up around the knees as he brings down the barreling back. The result is a fourth down and the Colts getting the ball. This aspect of Moore II’s game is often overlooked, but it is vital to this team’s success.
Ball Skills/Pass Coverage
While tackling is great for a cornerback, they really aren’t much use if they can’t cover. Moore II is an excellent slot corner in coverage and even plays a bit on the outside against team’s top receivers. This is a good example of how smart he is in coverage against the Steelers’ top wide out in JuJu Smith-Schuster. Moore II gets beat by a step down the sideline, but he doesn’t panic or draw a penalty on the play. He simply composes himself, locates the receiver’s hands, and makes sure that he is in a position to make a play on the ball. As the ball arrives and the receiver reaches his hands out for the pass, Moore II puts his hand right in the middle and knocks it away. Excellent play against a top wideout.
Part of playing corner is having luck and great positioning that leads to big plays. Here, Moore II is in the slot, but backs off after the snap as the call is zone near the sticks. He drops back to his spot and reads the eyes of the quarterback. As the ball is thrown, he moves towards the area of the play and finds himself in great position for the tipped interception. He then gets up and races back for a solid return. It may not be a highlight reel play, but good job by Moore II here to move towards the play and make the play with the opportunity in front of him.
Sometimes star players just make star plays. That is exactly what Moore II did against the Texans. He comes forward a bit on the play fake but maintains his discipline as he keeps his eyes on the quarterback. He reads the telegraphed throw over the middle and jumps the route just as the ball is released, tipping it to himself and making the pick. This play is outstanding in every way, but the most impressive part is having the confidence to bait one of the league’s best quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson, into making this throw. Great play by an absolutely great player.
BONUS: The Kenny Moore II Blitz
Since week 11 of the 2018 NFL season, the Colts have been using Kenny Moore II on designed blitzes. Over that time span, the star corner has racked up 7 sacks and multiple hurries and pressures. Here is a compilation of his best pass rushes over the past two seasons on the Kenny Moore Special:
The Colts installed a new wrinkle to their defense in week 11 of the 2018 season. We here in Indy call it "the Kenny Moore Blitz." Since that game, Moore has racked up 7 sacks and multiple hits and pressures on opposing quarterbacks as a slot corner. Here are his best rushes: pic.twitter.com/7NeJyEHrKH— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) November 27, 2019
Kenny Moore II has ascended to star status in the NFL and is one of the most valuable players on the Colts’ roster. He may not be a bona fide number one corner in this league, but he is a specialist on defense with a knack for making plays. In a league that is so dependent on big plays on either side of the ball, Moore II is a true asset to this team. Major props to Chris Ballard for not only finding this gem of a player but also locking him up long-term to be a part of this team’s future for many years to come.