INDIANAPOLIS —Those watching the Indianapolis Colts' defense this season have seen a revitalized unit, filled with young playmakers ready to step up to the challenge.
Through three games the squad boasts the most tackles for a loss in the NFL (22), the fourth most sacks in the league (10) and have allowed the fourth-fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards among all 32 NFL teams.
Credit for the strong start needs to be spread across the entire defense, from new coordinator Matt Eberflus to rookie standout Darius Leonard, and no small acknowledgment needs to be given to second-year cornerback Kenny Moore II.
The 23-year-old has been as reliable as anyone in the defensive backfield, and didn't wait long to show he belonged on the starting unit just moments into the season's commencement.
As Colts fans packed Lucas Oil Stadium to see their new and improved team take on the Cincinnati Bengals to kick off the 2018 regular season, Moore II was planning his own stellar welcome back party.
Not even a drive into the game he would step in front of an Andy Dalton pass and came just steps away from walking into the end zone to score the first points of the Colts' season.
Moore II hasn't stopped there.
According to Pro Football Focus, Moore II allowed a 0.0 passer rating on passes thrown into his coverage in the opener against the Bengals, and his 43.8 opposing passer rating overall in three games so far this season ranks eighth among all NFL cornerbacks.
Moore II's tight coverage has had a positive effect on the entire defense, too, as the defensive front has had more time to get to the quarterback.
"Kenny (Moore II) is just, he's just so tough," Colts head coach Frank Reich said of his defensive standout. "This guy is mentally tough. He just grinds it out. He takes every rep in practice, he just works hard."
Being tough is nothing new to the Colts defensive back, however.
He has been doing it his entire career.
Toughness is integral to the entire path that Moore II decided to embark on to play in the National Football League, as he continues to overcome obstacles.
The Valdosta, Ga., native was late to the game in terms of getting his football career started and wound up only getting one season of high school football under his belt before making the jump to college football at Division II Valdosta State, an opportunity Moore II remains very thankful for.
"David Dean (then head coach at Valdosta State), who is now at West Georgia Southern, took a leap of faith on me and thought something of me when I was coming out of high school," Moore II said. "We were both local and I was just so fortunate that he believed in me."
Moore II took that belief and ran with it in his four years of college football, proving that his talent could outshine his experience — or lack thereof. He registered 11 interceptions in 46 career games, including grabbing five as a senior.
Even with a high level of production, teams still pointed to Moore II's size at 5-foot-9 and a talent gap between the NFL and that of the Division II program that Moore II suited up for in college.
But while draft day came and went without Moore II hearing his name called, opportunity was not far around the corner.
Moore II was reached out to by one Bill Belichick, and got his first professional chance in the Northeast last summer in the New England Patriots' training camp.
While things didn't quite work out with the defending Super Bowl champions, it did land Moore II's tape on the desk of Colts general manager Chris Ballard, and just as soon as New England released him during the final round of roster cuts, he would be claimed by the team he now leads.
Just another step in his journey.
"The transition from there (New England) to here was extremely fast and it was a learning point where I got to play on special teams all year and then got my chance on defense," Moore II said. "I really tried to increase the trust they had in me within the system and within the organization. To be here from where I was a year ago, I knew it was in the cards, but I didn't know I would be starting right now. I told myself just to continue to work hard, and leave it up to God and the people that run this organization."
Like many times before, Moore II took an opportunity and capitalized on it.
Moore finished the 2016 season with the third highest playmaker index (19.4) among all rookie defensive backs, which is determined by the percentage of targets that resulted in a pass breakup or interception, according to PFF. The undrafted Moore II was only bested in the ranking by 2017 first-round picks Marshon Lattimore and Tre'Davious White.
The hard work is proving to pay off as a new regime of decision-makers took over this offseason and Moore II not only had the tape, but the intangibles to fit the build for a new defensive system.
"I really didn't know much about him, I'll be honest, when I first took the job," Eberflus said of Moore II. "Then I started researching all the guys that were on the roster and once I saw that, I certainly liked his quickness and his ability to play inside or out. Going forward, what I now know about him personally as a man is that he is a fighter, a competitor and he is a guy that really shows what our system is about in terms of those types of things."
Both Reich and Eberflus have referred to Moore II as a perfect fit for the system they are hoping to advance on defense, knowing they have a player that is ready for anything thrown in front of him.
"He represents everything we want in our team," said Reich.
"He is a gritty, tough, scrappy corner and that's exactly what we are looking for really in all of our defensive backs and our defensive players," said Eberflus.
But even as the Colts' defense continues to build on each success, Moore II is not dwelling on the positives or the negatives; he is focused on getting better.
"We are just doing what we are coached to do," Moore II said. "There is no magician's hat that we are looking through. We are going into each practice to build our confidence for Sundays."