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It would be too easy to measure the progress of Nick Moore simply by what his more famous pass-catching brother with the New Orleans Saints witnessed the only two times he has seen the BC Lions slotback in a CFL game for himself.
Easy, but also accurate. The first time Lance Moore saw his younger sibling play threedown football was the 2011 CFL season opener for the Lions in Montreal, and suffice it to suggest the critique of Nick’s night didn’t take long.
Moore had three drops, including a couple of sure touchdowns. He was injured and lost not only his starting spot but almost his career.
The second in-person critique, which came after he caught six passes for 107 yards Thursday at BC Place in a game where Moore continued to look like the receiver whom the Lions envisioned years ago, was clearly different.
“He definitely noticed a big difference than 2011,” Moore said. “But I think everybody’s noticed that.”
It isn’t so much of a turnaround than a player finally being given enough chances to make an impact. But it has reached a point that when Moore sat out practice Monday with an ankle injury it made the Lions offence look noticeably less potent, and it’s safe to think it’s the first time in the pros that suggestion has been made where the painfully shy receiver is concerned.
It’s a noteworthy sign of progress for a player who had to do well in pre-season last year just to stick around and not that long ago was still a healthy scratch.
Starting his third full CFL season, Moore is so tenured with the Lions he’d almost have a pension if he was in the NFL. Yet he is still a pup relative to his overall development, or for that matter his older brother, having only played 14 regular season games for the Lions.
There is a smoothness to Moore’s route-running that makes it evident why through two games in his first year no longer as an understudy to Geroy Simon that no Lions receiver has had more balls thrown his way. The only hard part is figuring out whether the Lions or Moore have been more patient with each other.
“I have a different role than in the past,” said Moore, who expects to play his 15th career regular season game Saturday when the Lions travel to face the Edmonton Eskimos. “In the past I had to wait for my time. This year I know I’m playing. It’s just about being consistent and being that much more confident knowing I have everybody behind me, whereas in the past I kind of felt like I was out there by myself. I believe in (the Lions), and they believe in me.”
The faith is not misplaced, but it is also a simple fact that Moore is also among the most experienced import starters in the scheme of offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine. To his teammates, that shows.
“That’s one thing about Nick; he knows the whole concept of the play,” said Courtney Taylor of Moore, who has been with the Lions roughly a year longer than any fellow import receiver.
“One thing about this offence is if you know it and are comfortable, you’re going to be productive. (Moore’s) comfort level is through the roof compared to everybody else.”
That goes beyond what the 27-year-old is doing on the field, and not because he has a sibling offering tips. Moore moved in with his girlfriend during the off-season in Tampa and admits there is stability in his life that never existed upon joining the Lions.
“He is in a great place,” coach Mike Benevides said. “You see him brimming with confidence.”
It would make the Lions even more confident if Moore would follow the lead of a younger receiver, Emmanuel Arceneaux, and dump the idea of an NFL career once and for all. Moore has also been cut by three NFL teams, which is why he said he would be open to signing another Lions deal before he becomes a free agent after this season.
But Moore also admitted he would reconsider the NFL under the right circumstances. Big brother had his first 1,000-yard receiving season in New Orleans last year. Little brother said a matching 1,000-yard year with the Lions is a good place to start.
“Being an American I don’t know how you can’t think about that,” the younger receiver said when asked about his NFL aspirations. “But that’s for time to come. It’s week two (of the CFL schedule).”
It was his way of suggesting it might be a nice idea for him to actually complete a full pro season. Yet, for perhaps the first time since he left college, Moore is being asked these days if opposing defences are starting to provide extra coverage after a first half against Toronto when it appeared he and Travis Lulay were engaged in a sandlot game of pitch and catch as he might have once done with his big brother.
Since that point, both siblings have noticed a few changes with each other.