GREEN BAY – The mere mention of the kid’s name widened Desmond Bishop’s eyes and brought a smile to Tramon Williams’ face.
It’s June, and not only have the Green Bay Packers yet to play a preseason game, they haven’t even put pads on for a practice.
But entering training camp, is there another player on the roster eliciting more excitement than undrafted rookie free agent outside linebacker Dezman Moses?
“That kid is good,” Bishop said following the team’s final mandatory minicamp practice last week. “Run stopping, rushing the passer, getting his calls in. Everything. He’s smart. He’s a good player.”
Moses’ standout play during the post-draft rookie orientation camp had Packers scouts and coaches buzzing, and during the team’s mandatory minicamp last week, he had what would have been at least two sacks of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a likely third against backup Graham Harrell.
“We talk about him every day, pretty much,” Williams said. “He’s got a lot of strength and pass rushing ability, let’s just say that. I’m excited to see what he does when we put on the pads.”
With three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who is moving back to the right side this season, sitting out most of the organized team activity practices and all of the minicamp workouts, the 6-foot-2, 249-pound Moses got plenty of first-team reps.
“I like Moses. He’s really fluid and has some God-given ability,” outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said. “He’s turned out to be a kid that knows about pass coverage already, so now I have to teach him a little bit of the refinement of technique and fundamentals. He already knows that stuff a little bit; now it’s just a matter of learning where he fits in our scheme. I like him. He’s a big guy.”
The 23-year-old Moses was the first to admit he didn’t expect to make such a strong impression so quickly.
“I really didn’t,” said Moses when asked if he thought he’d have such a big role so early. “I didn’t know what to expect. I went in with an open mind. Whatever they needed me to do, I was willing to do. Whether that’s rush the passer, play the run or special teams I’m willing to do whatever. To have reps and be able to do a little bit of it all is really a blessing.”
Moses chose the Packers over four or five other teams after being bypassed during the seven-round NFL Draft in April. He blames not being taken, at least in part, on his own immaturity.
Moses began his college career at Iowa, but after being arrested for public intoxication and getting suspended for four games during his sophomore season in 2008, he transferred to Tulane.
“Tulane was very humbling, down to earth,” Moses said. “It really made me grow. … I got a chance to really just focus on myself as a person and a player, and I think that really helped me grow and mature and helped me become the player and person I am today.”
At Tulane, Moses started 22 games over his final two seasons, earning all-conference recognition both years, when he registered 15.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss. His ability to make plays in the backfield appealed to a Packers defense that struggled to get to the quarterback last year and led to general manager Ted Thompson selecting defensive players with his first six picks, including outside linebacker Nick Perry in the first round.
Moses admitted he knew about Green Bay’s needs.
“Coming into the draft, I thought I was going to be drafted,” Moses said. “But once I didn’t, I had to set my mind and really prepare for whatever was coming ahead. When Green Bay called me, I knew I had a chance and opportunity to come here, and I just really wanted to make the best of it.”
He’s also trying to make the best use of his first-team reps.
“Working with the first team is always a blessing just because you get to go up against the best,” said Moses. “I’m going against the first-team tackles and Aaron Rodgers is getting the ball out immediately, so you’re getting the pace you would get in a game. That’s the advantage of working with the first team.
“At the same time, the amount of reps I’m getting is allowing me to become more comfortable. I’m seeing a lot of different things, so once I see it again it’s natural. It’s not like I’m thinking through anything. It’s really just me being able to play faster. Once I see it, and see it again, I kind of have a feel for what’s coming. And that totally helps.
“That’s what playing football is about especially when you’re changing levels. The speed is a little different and you don’t want to have to think too much so the reps are definitely helping.”
Given his first impression, it’s possible Moses could be the latest in a long line of undrafted free agents to make the roster, including cornerback Sam Shields and outside linebacker Frank Zombo in 2010 and linebackers Vic So’oto and Jamari Lattimore and safety M.D. Jennings last season.
But Moses says he can’t worry about that.
“That’s really out of my control,” he said. “I’m not the person that decides. If it was up to me, obviously, I would pick me. But it’s not up to me, so I just try whenever I’m out there, whenever I’m on the field, I try to impress and play hard.
“Let all the people who are judging and making the decisions view me in the right way. And at least say, ‘this guy plays hard. We know what we’re going to get out of him every day.’ Whether it works out or not, I can live with that and know I gave my best and 100%. But I feel like if I do everything right, and do what I’m supposed to – then I’ll have a good chance.”
Zach Heilprin covers the Packers for WBEV and WXRO radio in Beaver Dam, sister stations of ESPNWisconsin. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/zachheilprin.