The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with an undrafted rookie cornerback.
Name: A.J. Moore
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #67)
Opening day age: 22
Size: 5’11, 200 lbs.
2017 review: Entering his senior year at the University of Mississippi, A.J. Moore was locked in as the team’s primary nickel cornerback. As such, Moore started all 12 of his team’s games and produced the finest statistical season of his career. Overall, he registered 48 tackles in the Rebels’ press-man scheme, as well as a sack, a fumble recovery, and three pass breakups while going against some of the best teams in the country.
Even though Moore did not stand out in 2017, he received regular playing time on defense and special teams, and proved to be a vocal, reliable and physical presence – too physical at times, as he was ejected from a game against Auburn for targeting. All in all, though, the twin brother of fellow Ole Miss defensive back C.J. Moore produced a solid season followed by an equally solid pro day performance.
Moore ran a 4.4 40-yard dash – above average when compared to the cornerbacks participating in the scouting combine – and also was close to his peers in the broad (10’0”) and vertical jumps (36.3”). However, his numbers did not help him boost his stock and Moore ultimately went unselected in the draft.
2018 preview: After seeing Malcolm Butler leave as an unrestricted free agent, the Patriots brought in a total of four cornerbacks during and after the draft. A.J. Moore, who was signed as an undrafted rookie in early May, is one of them and now has a chance to prove he belongs on an NFL team. However, despite being a cheap option at a salary cap number of $480,000, the Ole Miss product faces a steep uphill climb to make the roster.
New England, after all, currently has 11 cornerbacks on the roster and only two of them, Stephon Gilmore and Duke Dawson, can be considered locks to make the team. Two more players, Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty, have very good chances of joining them which leaves only a maximum of two open spots. And considering the open practices so far this offseason, it would be a surprise if Moore earned one of them.
While other rookies saw considerable snaps with the starting defense, Moore did not. His best way onto the roster or – more realistically – practice squad therefore seems to be via the kicking game. If he can carve out a role as a gunner and front-line or wedge blocker, he might very well be able to stick around as a de-facto injury replacement and/or backup for Jonathan Jones. But of course, a lot can change over the next two months and Moore might just be able to surprise and follow Butler’s footsteps onto the 53-man squad.