Denarius Moore has been a talented receiver for the Raiders since the moment he stepped onto the field. A year after finding Jacoby Ford in the 4th round, beat reporters hailed Moore as another late-round steal from Davis’ final draft for circus-like catches. It didn’t take long for the nation to see Moore’s talents, as he exploded for a 5-catch, 146 yard effort in his second pro start (also adding a 25-yard rush in the first half). He would go on to have another 2 games of 100+ receiving yards for the Raiders in his rookie season, both against the Chargers, which would seem to signify a successful campaign. However, despite a fairly hefty amount of targets after the Bills game, Moore’s rookie season was marred by inconsistency and overall disappointment, as he was held to under 40 receiving yards in seven of the remaining thirteen games and two or fewer catches in five of them.
The Raiders hoped that an offseason with Carson Palmer would help boost Moore’s consistency and elevate him to a true playmaker status in 2011, but Moore seemed to still have flashes of brilliance tainted by mental errors and inconsistent route running. He topped 100 yards just once, in the Raiders’ best game of the season against Atlanta (not a coincidence), and after the Ravens’ beatdown in week 9, Moore had just one catch in three separate games and never exceeded 46 yards. The Raiders still had some faint playoff hopes despite two heartbreaking losses against Tampa Bay and Baltimore, and when the team needed a playmaker, Moore completely disappeared. Rod Streater became the most trusted Raiders’ receiver, and by was all accounts one of the Raiders’ best players in a bleak 4-12 season.
This season seemed to continue in much of the same way. While the three-way quarterback battle in camp didn’t help much, Raiders’ receivers were unable to separate from one another and all suffered from a degree of inconsistency. Still, it takes a special level of inconsistency to have your offensive coordinator call you out as “frustrating.” Olsen very well summarized Moore’s talent and lack of production from the Raiders up to that point. Everyone on the team knew that Moore could break out in any given week, but he just didn’t seem to be able to do it week in and week out. The story continued through much of the preseason and even through the first two weeks of the regular season, when Moore wasn’t even targeted in a 19-9 win over the Jaguars.
Before the Denver game, I had written that the Raiders needed a consistent #1 receiver to take their offense to the next level. Because of the targetless game against the Jaguars, I had assumed that the Raiders had lost faith in Moore and suggested that the team traded for Browns receiver Josh Gordon. I, like many Raiders fans, believed that Moore had finally hit his breaking point and could no longer gain trust from Pryor, Greg Olsen, or Dennis Allen.
Then Moore scored a 73-yard TD and gave everyone hope again. It had been a while since the Raiders had seen that kind of effort from Moore, as he only had one catch over 50 yards all of 2012, but his catch-and-run reminded the team why he could be the team’s leading receiver. After a shutout against the Jaguars, Moore has been averaging 8.75 targets per game…and for the first time, he has been taking advantage of them. In his last four games, Moore has averaged 89 yards per game and has scored 3 TD’s. He has had multiple impressive catch-and-run plays that have ignited the Raiders’ offense, including a 30-yard score against the Chiefs where he sliced the league’s best defense right up the middle. Most importantly, though, he has looked like a consistent playmaker, something the coaching staff has been praying to have happen for years now.
The Raiders’ offense is starting to look more and more dangerous each week. When the offensive line returns to full health, I expect Moore’s already-stellar production to skyrocket. Pryor’s deep balls have drastically improved this season, and Moore is at his best producing acrobatic catches week in and week out. He has already had half as many catches this season as he had all of last season, and for the first time, Moore has seemed capable of keeping it up week in and week out.