INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II today spoke to local reporters via video conference call. What did Moore II have to say about the addition of veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes, the impact of new All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, what he's seen out of second-year corner Rock Ya-Sin so far and more?
You can listen to that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Moore II sees Xavier Rhodes playing a critical role as a veteran leader in the secondary: The Colts in March signed the free agent Rhodes — a three-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro selection in 2017 — after his unexpected release by the Minnesota Vikings earlier in the month.
The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Rhodes has said that he feels as if he has a chip on his shoulder to go out and get back to playing at an All-Pro level, but he also wanted to use his opportunity with the Colts to help lead the way for the younger defensive backs at cornerback and safety.
Through the first couple weeks of the team's virtual offseason workout program, Moore II said he's already noticing Rhodes taking on that leadership role, much like safety Mike Mitchell was able to do when he signed with the Colts midway through the 2018 season.
"(Mitchell) brought a lot of experience to the room, and he gave us a lot of pointers of things to look out for and things to expect. Mike Mitchell actually taught us how to watch film and how to take what we learned in the meeting room to the field each day in practice," Moore II said. "So I think Xavier Rhodes can do the same thing."
Moore II said he's also already been able to start building an on-field rapport with Rhodes, as the two have been working out together at the same facility in south Florida.
"It's great to be on the field with him," Moore II said.
» Moore II grins from ear to ear when asked about the acquisition of All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner: The Colts sent their first-round (13th-overall) pick to the San Francisco 49ers to acquire Buckner, who at just 26 years old is already one of the top playmaking defensive tackles in the NFL.
A Pro Bowl selection in 2018 and Second-Team All-Pro pick in 2019, the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Buckner has collected 262 career tackles (38 for a loss) with 28.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed, seven fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles in his first four NFL seasons.
Buckner's acquisition gives the Colts one heck of a trifecta at the three key positions in their 4-3 defense: Buckner at the three-tech spot up front, Moore II in the nickel cornerback spot and two-time All-Pro Darius Leonard at the WILL linebacker spot.
"Those three positions all connect in some sort of way, as far as blitzing and getting to the quarterback," Moore II said.
Moore II knows a thing or two about getting to the quarterback; since 2017, he has 176 tackles (10 for a loss) with six interceptions, 19 passes defensed and four sacks, one of just eight players in the NFL — and the only cornerback in the league — with those kinds of numbers.
Adding a guy like Buckner to the mix will take even less attention off blitzing corners like Moore II when the time is right.
"The defensive line is the engine of our defense, so the better they are the better we would be in the back end, and the better the linebackers can be as far as hitting and running and blitzing, as well," Moore II said with a big smile. "So it's gonna be very fun because, you know, having a good defensive line, somebody has to get the sacks, and I plan on getting the sacks, so (laughs)… Nah, it'll be great competing with those guys and having a race to the quarterback. So I can't wait."
» Moore II already likes what he's seen out of second-year corner Rock Ya-Sin: The Colts took Ya-Sin with their second-round (34th-overall) pick in last year's NFL Draft, and he was thrown right in the fire, playing in 15 games with 13 starts at outside cornerback.
Ya-Sin took his lumps the first half of the season — totally expected for a rookie cornerback — but really seemed to be turning a corner as the second half of the year wore on. He finished with 62 total tackles (two for a loss) with one interception, five passes defensed and one fumble recovery, and was named to PFF's All-Rookie Team. He played the third-most snaps in the NFL among rookie cornerbacks, earning the sixth-best grade, and totaled the second-most tackles and the ninth-best catch rate and opponent passer rating.
Now, with virtual offseason workouts and meetings underway, Moore II said he's "seen a change already" in Ya-Sin compared to last year.
"He's able to answer questions, he's able to ask questions, he's asking other players," Moore II said. "He's doing all the right things correctly."
Moore II thought Ya-Sin handled himself well playing through adversity as a rookie, which should pay dividends down the road.
"The adversity that he was impacted with last year, he had to just keep swinging," Moore II said. "The advice I gave him last year was, you know, if you expected it to be perfect, don't even come on the field. There's gonna be a lot of things that happen on the field that you don't want to happen, and that's just the likelihood of our job to be a defensive back. There's gonna be great guys on the field, so you've gotta just keep playing."
» Moore II is "feeling great," for the record: Moore II was able to play in just 11 games last year before suffering a high ankle sprain Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans, an injury that would prevent him from returning to the field the rest of the season.
The Colts struggled without their top nickel cornerback Moore II on the field the rest of the way. Over the final four games of the season, the Colts allowed the highest opponent completion percentage in the NFL (73 percent), as well as the most opponent pass completions (119), passing yards (1,259), passer rating (120.1), tied for the second-most passing touchdowns (11) and a 50-percent third-down conversion rate, fourth-highest in the league during that span.
Moore II says he's "feeling great" health-wise, and as for those defensive results over the last quarter of the season?
"I think at this point we're just leaving 2019 in 2019," Moore II said.
"We've got a lot work to do," he continued. "We can't really worry about the picture that everybody else paints of the Indianapolis Colts. To be the team that we want to be in the future, we're starting the work right now to be that team. So whatever happened last year, whatever adversity was set, we just have to get knocked down and we've just gotta get back up and just keep swinging. So 2020 is here, and that's all we're worried about right now."
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