Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore is a current nominee for Pepsi's NFL Rookie of the Week. He also made NFL Network's Top Five plays of the week for an outstanding 46-yard catch he made last Thursday.
Moore had touchdown catches from 26 and 33 yards in San Diego and appears to have arrived.
Moore is a playmaker and should be targeted a lot against the Vikings this Sunday.
Turn the page to see why.
It all started in training camp, where Moore consistently beat anyone that attempted to cover him. There was one particular play that I saw on "Raiders Report" where Moore went up between two defensive backs, snatched the ball out of the air and toe-tapped to avoid running out of the end zone.
I thought, "Hmmmm, interesting". But then didn't really give it too much thought after that; until I kept reading reports about him in practice. Then I heard that he was beating Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson deep and I became more worried about the cornerback play rather than giving Moore credit.
I also thought back to Allen Iverson saying, "We talkin' about practice, man!".
After an excellent camp we got our first glimpse of Moore with the lights on: He was as advertised. In a preseason game against the Cardinals, he had three catches—abusing anyone assigned to cover him.
Moore continued his assault throughout the preseason and was getting time with the ones at that. I was then concerned about him being another preseason wonder like Doug Gabriel a few years back.
I was waiting for him to convince me in the regular season.
Now it's time to separate the men from the boys in the 2011 season, and just like the great rapper/actor Tupac Shakur, Moore is still ballin'.
The Raiders didn't need to do much passing in Week 1, but in Week 2 the weapon was officially unveiled. Moore had 5 catches on the day for 146 yards with an outstanding 50-yard touchdown catch in crunch time.
The grab was one of three truly outstanding, Lynn Swann type catches in the game. Then I realized that Moore was the truth and I couldn't wait to see what he would do from there.
Moore went quiet from there as Darrius Heyward-Bey started to get all the targets.
After his breakout game against the Bills, Moore disappeared—leading me to believe he hit a rookie wall or just isn't consistent. But then I looked back through the games and saw that it wasn't Moore's fault at all.
Head coach Hue Jackson does a good job of playing to his players' strengths. Despite the big arm, Campbell is better at throwing short passes, and despite his blazing speed, Darrius Heyward-Bey is better catching them.
That naturally made Campbell throw Heyward-Bey's way as Campbell was missing all of his deep balls. In fact, Campbell missed Moore four times on deep balls with three of them open enough to get touchdowns on.
But Moore shouldn't take that personal as Campbell missed everyone deep against the Texans. Campbell then breaks his collarbone the next game, and the trade of Jackson's career was made for Carson Palmer.
After a rough start for Palmer and injury to Jacoby Ford, who Jackson was originally looking to make the No. 1 receiver before having hamstring issues to start the season, sprained his foot. Ford had a 41-yard catch early in the game before leaving, so Moore took over to the tune of five catches, 123 yards, and two touchdowns.
Moore also had an outstanding, 46-yard catch where he caught the ball by the back end of it. You can say Moore is back but he never left—he just needed someone to get him the ball.
Many citizens of Raider Nation wondered what happened to Heyward-Bey over the last couple weeks. I was actually among them, as I was caught up in how much Heyward-Bey has improved.
But with Palmer now at quarterback for the Raiders, deep threats are needed to take advantage of Palmer's markedly better accuracy on deep balls. Moore's speed, route-running and ball skills allow him to get open and be a threat against defensive backs.
This combination should be on display against the Viking's secondary.
Of course, being a superstar means that everyone in the league and watching at home thinks the world of you. Before you make it to that level however, your teammates already think the world of you.
Moore has now earned the trust of his teammates and coaches, but it goes further than that. His teammates do nothing but rant and rave about the way he "Wows" them with the plays he makes as a receiver.
Palmer told CSN. com's Paul Gutierrez after Thursdays' game, "He could be as good as he wants to be. That catch he made on the long fade was amazing. He ran some great routes. He has great hands. He has everything you need to be a successful receiver. I just depends on how great he wants to be. He is a special talent and the sky is the limit for him."
Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh also talked to Gutierrez saying, "In his fourth year, when they're talking about the best players in the NFL, his name should come up. And if it doesn't, it won't be because a lack of talent. It will be because he doesn't want it, or injury."
Remember, both Palmer and Houshmandzadeh played with Chad Ochocino in his prime.
The NFL already knows about running backs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. They also know what fullback Marcel Reece and wide receiver Jacoby Ford can do when healthy.
Heyward-Bey has established himself underneath as an after-the-catch receiver. At one time in the season it looked as though he had shot at a 1000-yard season. It looked like Moore had his breakout party in Week 2, then again last Thursday.
Shinning in Minnesota in Week 11 will give him a big step toward becoming a consistent receiver. The rest of the NFL knows Moore is dynamic, but showing the league he is consistent will make him a defensive coordinators nightmare.
Moore becoming a budding superstar could even open up things for McFadden later.
Heyward-Bey was mistaken by most as the Raiders' No. 1 receiver, but as I said before, that was only to be until Ford's hamstring fully healed. As we saw what he did last Thursday, a connection has been established and it should continue to grow
As a matter of fact, aside from the newly acquired Houshmandzadseh, Moore is the only receiver that hasn't missed time due to injury. I was really excited about Schilens playing in his first NFL season not coming off of surgery.
I was also excited about Murphy, who was on pace for a 1000-yard season before getting injured last year. Then, the new and improved Heyward-Bey was supposed to be on full display, yet eventually missed time too.
He has produced but Moore may end up in the No. 1 slot as he continues to connect with Palmer for big plays. In no way am I saying we should forget about the other guys but the No. 1 spot is Moore's right now.
If continues to develop chemistry with Palmer his chances as the No. 1 grow even more.
There's no word on if McFadden will play on his sprained foot Sunday and I hope he doesn't. That way, he will be rested and fully healed for the stretch run for the playoffs the Raiders are making this year.
With McFadden out, Michael Bush proved again last Thursday that he can more than handle the load. Taiwan Jones can pick up whatever is left there but the Raiders will probably run a little less because the Vikings are tough against the run.
Don't get me wrong, the Raiders should and will establish the running game in some way but the Raiders will have to pass a little more. Moore may even scare the Vikings defense into making it easier for the Raiders to run.
The passing game setting up the running game isn't so terrible.
While the Vikings are good against the run, they are horrible against the pass—ranked No. 31 in the NFL. According to ESPN.com, they just got worst against the pass—losing cornerback Antoine Winfield with a fractured collarbone.
Winfield is the only halfway decent corner with the Vikings and his injury may have him out for the rest of the season. To me, this means Moore will have a chance to run around buck wild on the Vikings secondary.
What's he going to do with it?
With the Vikings run defense being so good, the Raiders should still be run heavy, but will have to pass a little more on Sunday. McFadden should get another week off just to make sure the his foot holds up for the rest of the season too.
Then you have Ford, another big-time weapon, out for Sundays game with a sprained foot. All this means to me is Bush will get another chance to shine in the running game and Moore gets to prove he is a week in and week out dynamic receiver.
With the way the Vikings play against the pass, Moore should really establish himself in the NFL Sunday. This will open up things for Heyward-Bey, Ford when he gets back and the rest of the talented offense.
He may even open up things for superstar running back Darren McFadden when he gets back.