NAPA (AP) — At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, Oakland rookie linebacker Sio Moore is far from an ideal matchup to put his hand down and rush against a 300-plus pound NFL offensive tackle.
Moore is not one to back away from any challenge and relishes the role the Raiders are using him in for certain passing situations.
A third-round pick from Connecticut who immediately proclaimed he was the best linebacker in the draft after his selection, Moore does not lack for confidence or enthusiasm as evidenced by the way he tried to fire up the home crowd in the exhibition opener.
Those traits are quickly making him a fan favorite in Oakland as the polar opposite of former first-round bust Rolando McClain, who previously wore the No. 55 jersey.
They also help him when he has to deal with a physical matchup like going against a tackle like Doug Free, who outweighs him by about 85 pounds.
“It doesn’t matter how much you weigh if you have quick, strong hands,” Moore said. “It’s great to me because it means the coaches want to be able to put me in positions and I want them to be able to trust me, and the bigger thing is for teammates to trust me as well. I just want to work for what I have.”
While McClain often lacked energy and playmaking ability during his three failed seasons in Oakland, Moore appears to be a ball of energy on the field, whether it’s jumping up and waving his arms to inspire the crowd, rush the quarterback or chase down ball carriers.
That translated in his first game when he sacked Dallas quarterback Tony Romo on the first drive of his exhibition debut.
“That boy plays with a lot of life,” middle linebacker Nick Roach said. “I appreciate guys that play defense with passion and want to be good, so it was good to see him make some plays.”
Moore missed practice Sunday with a minor injury but still has earned the respect of the veterans on the defense because he is voracious about absorbing any advice and knowledge he can from players like Roach, Charles Woodson and Andre Carter.
Whether it’s learning how to use your hands as a pass rusher from Carter, the importance of loving the game from Woodson or where to line up on a specific play from Roach, Moore is a sponge as a student.
“It’s all about soaking up all that information, so that I can take it and utilize it and make it into my own,” he said.
A linebacker by trade, Moore spent much of that game lining up with his hand on the ground as a defensive end to rush the passer. With 14 1/2 sacks his final two years at Connecticut, Moore has pass-rushing ability but doing it one-on-one against NFL left tackles is a far tougher task.
But the Raiders need help on the pass rush and believe Moore can be just the player to provide it.
“That’s something that I see him being able to do,” coach Dennis Allen said. “I don’t know if I see him doing it 70 snaps in a game. I’m not comparing him to Von Miller who I had in Denver, but we did the same thing with him. I see that being a function that he could potentially provide.”
Moore took a long road to the NFL from his native Liberia. With that country ravaged by Civil War, Moore’s mother took him as a five-month old and his older sister to the United States in 1990 to find a better life.
Moore eventually ended up in Connecticut but found trouble in high school before finding his way after a close friend was shot to death. Moore moved to North Carolina to be with his sister and got his life back on track and ended up getting a scholarship to play at Connecticut.
Moore excelled at college but was disappointed when he did not get invited to the Senior Bowl. But a strong performance in the East-West Shrine game and an injury to another linebacker got Moore a late invitation and he played for the Raiders staff in Mobile, Ala.
They were so impressed that they drafted him in the third round and Moore immediately proclaimed he would be the best linebacker in the draft.
“Everything happened the way it was supposed to happen,” he said. “I wasn’t supposed to go in the first round. I wasn’t supposed to go in the second round. I was supposed to go 66th to the Raiders. I was supposed to be put into the situation that I’m in and how it’s all come together and fallen in. I couldn’t be more happy because it’s put me in the hungriest position that I can possibly be and that’s exactly what this team is. We are hungry, and we’re willing to work.”
NOTES: CB Taiwan Jones, LB Keenan Clayton, RB Latavius Murray and WR Juron Criner also sat out with injuries from the game. “I don’t expect those guys to miss a lot of time,” Allen said. “But we have to get guys healthy and get guys back out here. ... RG Mike Brisiel also sat out to get some rest as he works his way back from offseason ankle surgery. “I want to get him back healthy to where he really has a chance to show us what he can do,” Allen said.