Could Damontre Moore Be a Dark-Horse Defensive Rookie of the Year Candidate?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistAugust 20, 2013

Aug 10, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Giants defensive end Damontre Moore (79) is seen between plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin doesn't like to overuse his rookies, but the G-Men haven't had a really dominate first-year player in a time period than spans longer than the Coughlin era in New York. 

In fact, a Giant has never won the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, and the only AP defensive rookie of the year in team history was Lawrence Taylor, way back in 1981. 

But I've got a funny feeling this summer about Damontre Moore, who has a chance to gain an unusually high number of reps as a rookie for two reasons:

1. He's been tearing it up on the practice field and was pretty much dominant in New York's preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, Moore was graded by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) as the Giants' best defensive player by a wide margin. This is the review he received from PFF's Gordon McGuinness:

There wasn’t a player in the game who jumped out more than Giants third-round draft pick Damontre Moore (+6.0), with the former Texas A&M student showing up all over the field. His blocked punt with 11:27 left in the first quarter was the opening highlight but he added some impressive work as a pass rusher. Beating a selection of Steelers blockers to record a hit and four hurries, he did so in a variety of different ways with pressure coming on rushes inside, outside, and once on a stunt.

It wasn’t just as a pass rusher where he impressed though, with him finding success against tight end Michael Palmer and backup offensive tackle Guy Whimper in the running game. Topping it all off he showed nice awareness on a couple of screens, preventing any positive yardage on either of them. His best work came against weaker competition but the Giants have to be excited by what they saw on Saturday night. Hopefully that means we’ll see even more of him as the preseason progresses.

2. The circumstances are there. Moore himself didn't play in Sunday night's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, but neither did the team's top three pass-rushers from the last two seasons. Osi Umenyiora walked as a free agent, and Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul continue to be hampered by injuries. 

JPP is recovering from lower-back surgery and may or may not be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener. Even if he does return, there's no telling how effective he'll be. And even if he is effective, he'll need support with Umenyiora gone and Tuck trying to a) stay healthy and b) get out of a rut that has seen him fail to reach the seven-sack mark in three of the last four seasons.

Moore didn't practice Monday, as he recovers from a shoulder injury, but Coughlin says he's getting closer to returning, according to's Ohm Youngmisuk.

Tuck was already dealing with back problems, and now he has a hamstring injury. He's 30 now and has run into some injury problems of late, so that's a concern. 

I still can't believe the Texas A&M product dropped as far as he did in the NFL draft. I don't care what he did at the combine and in private workouts. This is a guy who, on tape, was spectacular more often than not in college. He had 21 sacks, five forced fumbles and 39 tackles for loss during his final 24 games with the Aggies, and yet he was picked after 43 fellow defensive prospects.

And if character concerns are the issue, he's in an ideal spot. That's a veteran locker room, and Coughlin knows how to handle those who fall out of line.

The stars are simply aligned for Moore to become a steal. 

The only thing not on Moore's side? History. Since Taylor won in '81, 28 of the 32 DROY winners were drafted in the first round, and not a single one of them was picked as late as Moore was. Only one went in the third round, and three went in Round 2. 

So yes, Jarvis Jones, Ziggy Ansah, Dion Jordan Barkevious Mingo, Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd probably have big advantages, but if there were ever a chance a Giant might defy the odds from a less-than-glorious draft spot, this might be it.