Let's not sugar-coat anything—it's a wonder Jarvis Moss is still on an NFL roster.
I'm not quite sure what it was, but when the Broncos traded a bounty of picks to move up and get him in the 17th slot of the 2007 NFL Draft, something about him just didn't sit well with me, and I'm sure plenty of other fans felt the same way.
When Jarvis Moss was drafted by the Broncos out of Florida, he carried the "boom or bust" label because he was so naturally gifted but so raw. Moss left Florida after his junior season, where he really made a name for himself in the National Championship game. The Broncos made Moss a first round pick because of his extreme athleticism and size.
At 6 '7", 257 pounds, Moss looks a lot like Jason Taylor physically, and the Broncos had high hopes that he could be similarly productive sacking the opposing quarterback. After six games of his rookie seasons with only one sack, it was clear that Moss would be a bigger project than the Broncos imagined, and he ended the season on the injured list.
2008 came along, and Moss had only two sacks in 12 contests. Obviously, this was going to be an uphill battle, and at this point, it was evident that Moss would not be able to make the climb.
When Mike Shanahan (the man who drafted Moss) was fired, Josh McDaniels came in and completely cleaned house. There were rumors that Moss was available for trade, essentially whatever the Broncos could get as late round compensation for the 2009 NFL Draft, but nothing ever formulated.
And Moss survived the cuts, all the way until training camp.
The Broncos kicked the tires on Moss as an outside linebacker, a position some scouts felt he would be more comfortable in as an NFL player due to his lack of pure strength. Many figured his quickness and pass rushing abilities would make him a factor standing up, using his speed to get around the edge.
Moss was clearly on the roster bubble, but a pre-season game in which he recorded three tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble showed that Moss was adjusting, regardless of what "string" he was playing against.
He obviously has pass rushing abilities, he just wasn't completely there mentally, as evidenced by his near retirement earlier that offseason.
Because of his three sacks in 18 career games at that point, Moss was already being considered a draft "bust". Some feel that really affected him mentally, but Moss said his time off from Broncos camp wasn't all about football.
"I had a lot of things build up," Moss said. "It wasn't all football stuff. It was some personal things. I just needed some time to reflect and feel what is important to me and what I want."
Moss gathered himself while he was away, and realized that football truly did make him happy.
"There was a lot of stuff on my plate last year. A lot of stuff that wasn't just football. A lot of stuff built up on me," he said. "I had to sit down, take a deep look at myself and realize this is what I am—I'm a football player. This is what I love to do. ... It's serious now."
Moss played in only seven games in 2009, but approached the 2010 offseason as though it was most certainly his last.
After months of working out and training, Moss was named by his peers as one of the top offseason performers on the team. Many like to say that Moss is a guy who always has looked good in shorts, and that analysis may be warranted at this point, but the former first round pick came into training camp this year bigger and clearly a lot more focused.
Moss was not just impressing his teammates, though. He was practicing with the first team defense when Robert Ayers spent time in Josh McDaniels' dog house, and it was evident that the effects of Moss' offseason labor were much greater than any of us could have anticipated.
Say what you want about the guy, but this offseason he seems hungrier than ever, and I've seen it up close and personal. But don't take my word for it. Take a look at what the reigning sack champion had to say about Moss' improvements:
"He's looking good," NFL sacks king Elvis Dumervil said Tuesday. "He's working. He's making fewer mistakes and his energy level is high. He seems more focused."
Brian Dawkins had some good things to say about Moss as well:
"You can see it in his mindset," Dawkins said. "Obviously, I haven't been with Jarvis in other years, what everybody's talking about. All I see is Jarvis today. What I see of Jarvis today is a guy who is dialled in, dedicated. He's pushing himself and asking questions left and right in the meeting room to make sure he's where he needs to be."
It seemed as though 2010 would be a year of new beginnings for Moss, who was by all accounts making great strides to learn the outside linebacker position and hone his craft as a pass rushing specialist. Head coach Josh McDaniels was among those who took notice:
"He had a great off-season, and we talked to Jarvis about that being important for him," McDaniels said. "I think he's stronger. He's maintained his weight, which has been an up-and-down thing and has kind of fluctuated in the past. He's got such a lean body, but he's very powerful.
He knows the system better," McDaniels said. "It's not his first year in this system playing as an outside linebacker and he's doing a lot of the little things right that take some time to learn," McDaniels said. "So, we're excited about what we've got with Jarvis this year."
Initially, it appeared as though Moss would take over the void left on the depth chart by the injured Darrell Reid, who will most likely begin the season on the PUP list after offseason surgery. It seemed Moss would settle in quite nicely to that role, until fate stepped in a bit.
Broncos fans certainly have not already forgotten the injury sustained to Elvis Dumervil, who will miss a good majority of hte 2010 season with a torn pectoral muscle.
As devastating as the Dumervil injury was, it was encouraging for Broncos fans knowing that their former first round pick was making strides not just physically, but mentally as well. Combined with the projected emergence of Robert Ayers, it seemed the Broncos could do enough damage control to get by favorably for the coming season.
The very next day, Moss broke his left hand.
As many injuries as the Broncos have been having this offseason, an injury to Moss should have been half expected at that point. Luckily, Moss wasn't going to miss more than one pre-season game, and would be able to play with a club on his hand much like Brian Dawkins did last season.
Moss recently returned to the practice field, and he has an enormous amount of pressure on him right now. The Broncos have the grueling task of replacing the NFL's top sack artist from a season ago.
At 26 years old, Moss could be a very pleasant surprise for the Broncos this year. With Robert Ayers manning one outside linebacker spot, Moss could allow Mario Haggan to remain at his preferred inside linebacker position and give the Broncos a spark off the edge with Ayers commanding double teams.
For Jarvis Moss, the biggest concern I have always had about him is whether or not he had the "killer" instinct. Great pass rushers like Elvis Dumervil and James Harrison and Jared Allen are just absolutely ferocious, relentless, and no matter who they are going up against, they believe they are the better player.
If Moss can find within himself that type of mentality, he can be an absolute force. The Broncos are counting on him to make a spark in the pass rushing department, and lucky for them, that is his forte'.
"I want to go ahead and start a legacy for myself," he said, "just live up to what people expect me to be."
As of right now, the odds are against Jarvis Moss, and nobody outside of die-hard Bronco fans (and maybe not even all of them) expect him to do much of anything.
Jarvis Moss' legacy will be defined by what he makes of this extra opportunity that he has worked hard to earn.
2010 is where Moss' book begins.
The rest is still unwritten.