A year ago, the Seahawks made a roster move that seemed curious to a lot of people at the time.
Heading into Week 12 of the 2017 season, the Seahawks promoted rookie receiver David Moore from the practice squad, a little-known player from a little-known Division II school, East Central University in Oklahoma. To make room for Moore, the Seahawks released Dwight Freeney, a veteran pass-rusher who might end up in the Hall of Fame someday.
At the time, receiver depth wasn't a real need, but as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll acknowledged at the time, there was concern about losing Moore to another team wanting to add him to its roster.
A year later, Seahawks fans and the rest of the NFL are seeing why the Seahawks made sure they didn't lose Moore late last season even though he was active for only one of the final five games. In his second season, Moore, Seattle's penultimate pick in the 2017 draft, going 23 spots ahead of starting running back Chris Carson—yes, the Seahawks did pretty well in the seventh round last year—has solidified himself as Seattle's No. 3 receiver behind Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. Through 11 games, Moore is second on the team in receiving yards (413) and receiving touchdowns (5), and his 18.8 yard-per-catch average is second in the league among pass catchers averaging at least two catches per game.
And Moore has not only been making big catches, but making them in big moments, none more significant than when he hauled in a 35-yard game-tying touchdown on fourth-and-3 late in last week's win in Carolina.
Asked if he was surprised to see Moore come up with such a critical catch, Baldwin said, "Not at all. He's a savage, he does that every day in practice, in games when he gets his opportunities. He's a baller."
It has been quite a rise for Moore, who was lightly recruited out of Gainesville, Texas, leading to him playing at East Central. Moore knew he was on NFL teams' radars, including Seattle's having met with Seahawks southwest area scout Aaron Hineline, but he wasn't really expecting to hear his name called in the draft. When Moore was drafted, it was nearly impossible to track down a photo from his college days—apparently wire services don't shoot a lot of East Central games—and it seemed his school wasn't expecting Moore to be drafted either, because when contacted by the Seahawks that Saturday about getting a photo, East Central responded saying they'd try to come up with something on Monday. Then after spending most of his rookie year on the practice squad, Moore not only made the roster to start this season, he became a key part of Seattle's offense.
"I think about it, I think about it a lot," Moore said of how far he has come in a short time. "It's just a big blessing, I just thank the lord. I'm just trying to live day-by-day and keep it going."
Having played at a Division-II school, Moore came to Seattle a little bit raw—Carroll compared Moore in that regard to Golden Tate, who wasn't fully polished as a receiver out of college in part because he played baseball and football at Notre Dame—but the Seahawks saw enough from a physical standpoint to know they wanted Moore in Seattle.
"He's a really cool kid, very tough, very aggressive," general manager John Schneider said after the Seahawks drafted Moore. "He's like 222 pounds, running 4.43 (40-yard dash). Maybe 4.38, depends on the watch… He is a strapped up guy, now. Really good looking, physically."
Carroll joked that when scouting Moore, "The first thing I remember is the film was really grainy, it was."
Carroll then added, "He was really good after the catch. Really good running in space and he looked like he was stronger than the other guys he was playing with. He's a very strong player. He doesn't look like a big guy but he weighs 216 (pounds) or something. He's not jostled or knocked around very easily. He's really physical and so that's why you've seen him on the balls up the sidelines and with guys hanging on him. He doesn't have any problem making those plays and going up, he's really strong too. We didn't know how much that would carry over because he looked like he was bigger than the guys he was playing with, but he's just a strong dude and he makes his plays. He also demonstrated really natural instincts on how to play that ball, that last (touchdown vs. Carolina), to not show the ball was coming and delay the opportunity to let the guy that's covering him know what's going on. That's big-time savvy and he pulled it off great."
What Carroll referenced about Moore's savvy on the touchdown catch in Carolina shouldn't be overlooked. One reason he was able to make the catch despite a cornerback being all over him is that Moore had "late hands" on the catch, meaning he didn't reach up for the ball early, and as a result the corner didn't know the ball was coming.
"That's extremely difficult," Baldwin said. "I think the person who probably showed him the most of how to do that was Paul Richardson when he was here. Paul was extremely talented at late hands catches. David has kind of seen how that could help him, and he has the ability to do it. Not everybody has the ability to do it, and David has really worked hard at it and he's obviously extremely successful. I'm not surprised at his success when he's in those situations and doing it because he's worked so hard at it."
Added Carroll, "Guys kind of either have that or they don't—that special awareness. They can learn that to some degree, but David is just a natural ballplayer. It's like we talk about with Tyler, just great instincts so they just pop up—for those guys that are really good at it—at the right times. They know when to use what they've got and sometimes that's getting up off their feet and sometimes that's holding and making space. It's going up and getting the ball and taking it away. You've seen David take the ball away from the defenders at times. That's just—it's stuff that they work on and they practice it, but some guys, they already know. Sometimes, the guys like that, when they see examples of things from other people and from other players, they can copy stuff because they can just make sense of it. Other players don't and they can't, so David's a very special athlete."
Seattle players will wear customized cleats designed by local artists during Week 13 of the 2018 NFL season recognizing causes that are personal to each player. Check out the Seahawks' kicks and learn more about the causes they have chosen to represent.