Heading into the 2008 season, Jay Moore is an unknown quantity at a critical position. The 49ers didn’t get much production – especially pass-rushing production – from their outside linebackers last season and many believe they must take an outside linebacker (QG?) with one of their first picks in the draft. I caught up with Moore today after he finished his morning workouts and found out three big things happened to him this offseason: He got married, he fully recovered from a vicious high-ankle sprain and he lost a little weight. If you’ll remember, Moore showed up last season at 272 pounds after playing defensive end at Nebraska. Right now he’s a 259-pound outside linebacker.
Moore said his primary focus this offseason has been getting leaner and quicker. He says he feels comfortable with his weight, which he remembers was painfully hard to pile on while in college. “Back then you would have protein shakes, an extra burger – anything to add weight,” he said. “I made myself eat as much as I could. It’s a lot easier now. It’s not as stressful. Now I can eat like a normal person.”
Moore’s rookie season ended when he suffered a high-ankle sprain in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve. The term “high-ankle sprain” sounds innocuous, but Moore says he suffered ligament, cartilage and even bone damage, and that doctors told him he would have been better off breaking his ankle. He didn’t start running until Week 12 and didn’t really test it out – making cuts, change of direction – until the offseason. It’s back to normal now, and Moore has been participating fully in the team’s offseason program.
So what will be Moore’s role in 2008? It’s hard to say at this point. He started out last season playing the Sam linebacker position behind Manny Lawson and figures he’ll begin the May minicamp in the same spot. But the 49ers want all of their outside linebackers to be able to play both the Sam and Will (rush) positions. Not only would that make their chameleon defense less prone to injuries, it would keep opposing offenses on their toes. So if the new, slimmed down Moore shows the pass-rush burst the 49ers have been missing – who knows – maybe he’ll appear opposite Lawson instead of behind Lawson.
By the way, I talked with Moore about another Nebraska guy, OT Carl Nicks. Here’s what Moore had to say: “He’s a good player. Out of all the tackles there, he’s the one that gave me the biggest fits…. He’s pretty athletic for a big guy.” Moore said that after he was drafted by the 49ers, he went to Nicks to ask him about Northern California. Moore is a lifelong Nebraska native. Nicks is from Salinas.
Moore also agreed that Nicks’ run-in with Lincoln police in early March probably wasn’t a big deal. Nicks was ticketed and cited for “failure to disperse” after police broke up a party he was attending. Incoming coach Bo Pelini later banned Nicks from Nebraska’s Pro Day.
When I lived in Sacramento, I used to play football with Bee colleague Ed Fletcher every Sunday morning in Land Park. Oh, how the times have changed. Apparently, Ed has hung up his cleats in favor of leg warmers. In case you didn't catch it earlier, here's "Flashdance" Fletcher as he struts his stuff alongside hundreds of would-be Gold Rush dancers at the weekend’s cheerleading tryouts at Stanford.
-- Matt Barrows