We’re always looking for interesting stories at PFF, and recently realized that since being blamed on national TV for being ‘thrown into Mark Sanchez’ and causing the infamous ‘buttfumble’, Jets’ RG Brandon Moore has been playing like a man possessed. He had his best three games of the season following that game and has now put together eight straight games grading in the green.
So we caught up with Moore to ask him about the reaction to that play, about line play in general, and what he thinks about unnamed sources.
Sam Monson: We’ve heard your take on the whole “Buttfumble” debacle before so I won’t belabor the point here, but I wanted to get your take on something related to that. Do you think TV announcers need to be a little more careful when they make comments immediately after plays like that, and have a little more awareness of the pulpit from which they speak and the impact their comments can have on millions of people watching the game who might take their word for it? Cris Collinsworth killed you on that play, but you didn’t do much wrong.
Brandon Moore: Well he’s entitled to his opinion, and however he sees fit to call the game. You see good and bad analysts, guys that do a good job of conveying what’s going on on the football field – John Gruden is one that stands out – and there’s some other people that have a good grasp of watching film and understanding football, how it works. I don’t really want to concern myself with how that happened, and what he said or how he does his job. He’s going to continue to do it how he sees fit, and I’m moving on, you know. It’s not really a huge concern of mine.
SM: Looking at your grade distribution for this year, it’s been a dramatic improvement in the second half of the season. Were you carrying an injury over the first half that we didn’t know about?
BM: I don’t make excuses for my play. I thought I had a decent beginning to the season, but it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. You always want to finish strong and get better as the season goes along. You know you don’t want to be playing your best ball and then tail off at the end. You’d like to be more consistent, but some things you have to manage during the season and you just try to improve as you go, and I think that’s the one thing I’m happy to see.
I think it started after the bye week; I started feeling more comfortable in our offense and doing better physically. I was also working on the things I need to work on and I think it’s translated to the field. I wouldn’t say over the first half of the season I laid a goose egg. I have a high standard for myself. Was it where I would like it to be? No, but I think I could probably say that for other seasons as well.
SM: You’ve been in the league a while now, what kind of things do you need to work on during the season?
BM: Well you know, things can slip, like your punch in your pass set. Things you take for granted over the course of the season, or in training camp, can kind of dwindle if you don’t work on them or focus and make that conscious effort to do it in practice and to translate that to games. It can be your angles on certain run blocks, or how you step, or your footwork or keeping your feet alive on certain blocks. These are all these things that I know, but you need to realize that your playing life depends on it and the team’s fortunes depend on it — you never stop learning or trying to improve as a football player. You’ve always got to just tighten up things that can get a little loose over time.
SM: How good was Damien Woody when he was playing next to you?
BM: Oh man, of course… he was a force. Playing next to him made my job a lot easier. We didn’t have to communicate a lot of things; he had played center, guard and tackle so he understands football and line play in general so it was a lot of fun to play with him.
He understood what we were trying to do, he was athletic and had great feet. To be able to go from center to tackle and to have the strength and the feet and athletic ability to be out on an island is pretty impressive. I can’t say enough about the job he did and the time I had playing next to him.
SM: And he went out still playing great football, you don’t often see that.
BM: Yeah, I mean that last year when he got hurt, of course he could have come back and played if he had really wanted to work through that injury and come back, but he’d had success in the past and had some family and business things that he wanted to take part in, but he went out playing at a high level. That last year before he got hurt you weren’t sitting there saying ‘Oh, boy, they might want to go in a different direction from him’. He was playing at a high level. He went out on top.
SM: How hard is it to replace a guy like that? Wayne Hunter had his struggled trying, but Austin Howard has developed and improved since his rocky start at RT.
BM: Yeah, he has. He’s done a good job of handling a little adversity. It’s hard playing on an island like that at tackle in the NFL, you know, his first full year starting. There’s a lot of things you’ve never experienced, but from Game 1 he came out with a great attitude, had a great day against Mario Williams and through the season it’s been up and down and he’s had some hiccups, but I think for the most part the good has outweighed the bad. I think his ability to move past mistakes or certain things and focus on techniques in practice and try to bring those to the game and have that confidence that you need to actually do it in the game and have it be successful is the biggest thing he has.
A lot of times guys may try things in practice, but when they get in the game — the lights go on and the stage is big — they don’t trust their technique and trust the work they put in and let it come out on the football field, you know. That’s one thing I think he’s really done a good job with.
SM: People talk about how tough it can be to change positions, but you actually changed sides of the football from college to the NFL, going from defense to offense. What was that like?
BM: It was very tough in the beginning. It’s a totally different mentality; you go from trying to get off blocks to trying to stick on blocks. It’s a different mentality you have to have over there. It wasn’t easy at all, and I had a lot of help along the way, a lot of patience from coaches and friends and family. It took a lot of work and a lot of dedication went into it. Just staying after practice and working with my old coach Bill Muir then (Doug) Marrone, who’s now up in Syracuse, and some other coaches along the way like Bill Callahan. I’ve taken from all of these people, but it was definitely not easy in the beginning making that transition, but you know, fortunately I’ve had some teachers that were patient with me and it kind of worked its way out. I had a good attitude about it, wasn’t opposed to it, and I’ve been blessed to play this long and have the career I’ve had.
SM: Players have O-line coaches come and go like you just said, but how much does the basics and fundamentals differ from line-coach-to-line coach?
BM: I mean, you can have one coach that might want you to step a little more this way, more lead step as opposed to zone step, a lateral step on some blocks, or certain little tweaks in how you want to do a double team, but when you boil it all down it’s all the same. Moving from point A to point B, but you’ve got to learn. I’ve been through four O-line coaches I think and in the beginning they come in with what they want to do and you try it out, and that’s what the offseason is for.
You try it out and decide how you want to incorporate it into your game and decide if it can work and if it doesn’t, you work your way through it and maybe combine it and pull on your strengths from the past and use it that way. But you’ve got to be able to — especially in my position when you play for so long, there are definitely things where I feel confident about and things I’ve picked up along the way from coaches — but you’ve got to lean on things you’ve trusted for a while, as well as trying to add some new tools to your bag.
SM: You’ve played a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of quality interior defensive linemen this season, who is the best guy you’ve had to face?
BM: Uh, I guess it would probably have to be JJ Watt. Of course, he’s a possible league MVP or Defensive Player of the Year, and he was pretty good. He’s definitely a young player with a lot of physical tools that help him play well. Vince Wilfork is always a tough guy to go against, but I’ve been playing him for the past 10 years nearly and he’s always tough.
SM: We get told all the time that we’re getting Wilfork wrong when we grade. He’s obviously tough to move in the run game, but gets no pressure in the passing game. He’s obviously not a speed rusher, but he’s out there for all passing downs. How do you think they use him on passing downs?
BM: Well, you know he’s able to turn it on when he wants to in the pass game. He’s definitely a power rusher, but when he wants to break it out and switch up his power rush he’ll get you off balance and club you, and he’s athletic enough to get that quick little outside jab and a little swim move to get on the edge. He understands that, but he’s able to use that power game and mix it in occasionally with his edge stuff.
His run technique is more of his strong suit, he’s real stout and understands blocking schemes and what you’re trying to do to him and certain stack sets and what types of blocks you’ll get in this situation… and he’s got a great motor when he decides to really come with it. Being able to go from a two-gap type guy and also be a penetrating one-gap player, he definitely has those tools as well. He can be successful in a lot of different defensive schemes.
SM: Do you buy the idea that when he’s rushing the passer the Patriots use him to just tie up a couple of blockers, to just take two guys out of the play and open things up for someone else?
BM: Yeah, I don’t know about that. Both of their inside guys are more power rushers as opposed to edge rushers, you know, trying to force the pocket, cause the quarterback to step back into Ninkovich and the other ends so I think that’s what they’re trying to do, to force the quarterback out a bit from the pocket. But when he’s able to get the edge it’s something you have to be conscious of.
SM: You guys played Houston quite early in the season, was that before everyone understood just how scary Watt was? Did you do anything out of the ordinary to try and take care of him or did you just play your normal game?
BM: We pretty much played our normal scheme against them. We were of course aware of what kind of player he was, but we didn’t do anything dramatically different to what we usually do.
SM: Talk to us about Muhammad Wilkerson. He’s having a fantastic season, but because of the year Watt is having it’s kind of being overshadowed.
BM: He’s another guy whose length definitely helps. He’s got long arms and he’s pretty athletic and understands how to get the edge on people, and he can mix it up with a little power rush when he wants to, but he’s definitely a guy who’s been taking the coaching from his coach, Karl Dunbar. He understands what he needs to do to be successful. Any big, strong, long-armed guy, you’re going to have some struggles with him, especially if he’s got a pretty good motor.
SM: With the new CBA and how much they limit contact in practice how much do you actually get to face off against a guy like Wilkerson?
BM: In practice he plays on the left a lot so Matt Slauson sees him a lot, but on the occasions I do, what stands out is his pad level, and he’s got great hand placement. His length once again, his arms definitely give him an advantage in certain situations, but the biggest thing, especially with young pass rushers on the D-line is understanding how to get to an edge. Don’t run down the middle at someone, and I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve been helping him out with.
SM: I did a piece recently on the importance of stunts and twists for D-linemen in generating pressure. How tough is it for linemen to work together in tandem like that and pass off rushers between them to pick up another guy?
BM: Yeah, I mean it definitely takes work and communication. That’s something you need to work on, especially the tackle and the guard. If it’s a T-E move, with the tackle going out and the end coming around it’s definitely the punch of the guard flattening out the rush to punch him over and the tackle recognizing the end going across and verbally communicating with the guard to go, and just being aware of the situation and when teams like to do it.
On E-T plays where the end is pinching in and the tackle comes around, looping outside it’s the set of the tackle that’s important, keeping that inside tight and setting down the big pinch from the end. The guard recognizing the rush of the inside guy and realizing he’s not rushing you, and verbally communicating that again. A lot of it has to do with the recognition and verbal communication and then a few things like punching them over or whatever the case may be.
SM: Pro Bowl teams were just announced, what do you make of the state of the Pro Bowl these days?
BM: Last year was my first year going. I’ve heard stories about it, but you know, I don’t know how you can have a real game with so much at stake. Would you want to lose somebody for the upcoming season from a Pro Bowl game? If contracts were guaranteed, guys probably would go a little harder, but these contracts aren’t guaranteed, and that’s what you’re going to get. I don’t think the owner or the GM, or anybody else, let alone fans would like to see somebody lose their season from a Pro Bowl game.
SM: How do you guys at the Jets vote? Do you vote individually or as a block?
BM: We vote by unit. So the O-line votes on the D-linemen, interior, and edge guys. And the running backs vote on linebackers or something like that. Receivers on DBs, that kind of thing.
SM: And what do you think about how the voting goes for O-linemen these days? It’s tough for fans to understand how O-linemen are playing without watching guys play each snap individually (or having a PFF account ; ) ).
BM: Yeah, you know for years I’ve always been puzzled by it. I don’t really put too much into it. It’s definitely a great honor, but I think fans, to some degree, struggle. But the other portions, the players and coaches, I think have a better grasp, so I think it’s weighted pretty fairly to try and make up for whatever the fans don’t notice about O-line play. People have a good grasp of who’s doing well and who plays well.
I look at film all the time on other players and other teams when I’m scouting an opponent and I know the offensive linemen in the league and this guard or that guard is playing well or playing with high energy. I think the players especially and the GMs have a good grasp of who’s doing well and who’s not.
SM: Who do you think the standout OGs are this year?
BM: I like (Marshall) Yanda; I’ve always liked him. I like Wade Smith in Houston, their left guard over there, but of course I’m partially biased because I played with him for a little bit (ha-ha).
(Ritchie) Incognito, I like the way he plays. I‘ve heard good things about the guys in Cincinnati but I haven’t seen them too much.
SM: Incognito is an interesting player. He gets that dirty tag thrown at him a lot. How much of offensive line play though needs that nasty streak to be successful?
BM: Yeah, ha, you know I look at him and I wish I could play like that for 70 plays. I watch him all the time and I’m pretty amazed at the way he plays, but you’ve got to have a little dog in you a bit, because it’s not easy out there blocking 300-pound men, moving them from here to there, and I don’t think you can play hesitant at all. You’ve got to go lights out and it’s good to see guys play like that. I used to like watching film on Kris Dielman a lot; he played like that to me as well. Those are the guys I really enjoy watching.
SM: You’re a relatively light guy for a guard, what’s it like going against guys that are 335-pounds plus? Some of these guys have 40 pounds on you.
BM: You’ve got to focus on yourself, tighten up your technique. You’ve gotta get lower, make sure you get your hands inside, and make sure you stay balanced, you know, all those things. I really haven’t had anybody where I’ve thought ‘Wow, this is a tough challenge and I’m not able to match-up physically with them’.
SM: Are those guys tougher to deal with, or do you make it back with a quickness advantage?
BM: Oh they’re definitely tougher to deal with, it’s harder to move them off the ball, and in pass rush it may not be as bad, because usually those guys aren’t dynamic pass rushers, but they’re definitely hard to move. You find a way, though, you try to get your leverage down, get your hands inside, and you manage.
SM: So the last question I have comes back around the Jets this year. What do you feel when you read ‘anonymous sources’ coming from your locker room? Do you wish guys would just shut up unless they’re willing to put their name by a quote?
BM: You know that doesn’t really bother me… it bothers me a little, but I just wish people would shut up. If you don’t have anything good to say about your teammates, then don’t say anything, you know, it’s as simple as that. There’s no need to do that anonymously or if you were to put your name on it. I don’t really see the need for it.
SM: Does this kind of thing happen because the media has such complete access these days? You guys just play a game and win or lose there are microphones in your face and you’re asked questions when you’re still in the heat of the moment.
BM: Ah, I just think that in this day and age reporters are in this too. They’ve got editors on top of them about why didn’t you get this story or that story, and they’re fighting for jobs, trying to keep their jobs and everybody is looking for that little edge, and I think that’s where you get this stuff from.
SM: OK Brandon, thanks again for taking the time to talk to us, and good luck in the final game.
BM: You got it, appreciate it.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam