Farewell to Jarvis Moss (Hello, David Veikune)

Jarvis Moss was released by Denver yesterday after 3.5 unsuccessful seasons with the club. At the same time, David Veikune joined the Broncos. Denver had decapitated KC, the current division leader, only days before, with the recently acquired Joe Mays, (who proudly describes himself as a ‘ST player who also plays a little LB’). Given his 7 tackles (and he was in on several more), his pounding of the talented Jamaal Charles and his constant presence around the ball, he may have to review that stance. Bowing to the inevitable, though, Denver finally cut Jarvis Moss. He may have been the MVP of the scout team in 2009, but on Sundays, the only place you could find him was on the side of milk cartons.

To improve their pass rush and protect their ability to rotate their LBs to minimize wear and tear over the course of the season, Denver brought in Veikune, who was released by the Cleveland Browns in September. He is a former 2nd-round pick from the 2009 Draft. Questions abound as to why Cleveland cut such a high pick free after only 1.5 seasons. As was true in the Alphonso Smith trade, sometimes you find that the player and your team just don’t make a good fit. In fairness to both Veikune and Jarvis Moss, sometimes the systems just don’t fit the player.

Consider Jason Hunter, who scored a TD in the KC game after he recovered a fumble caused by Mario Haggan stripping the ball from Matt Cassel (one of three sacks for Haggan on the day - Hunter himself would add a fourth). Green Bay released Hunter because after three seasons as a 4-3 DE, they were convinced that he couldn’t fit their plans to move to the 3-4 and roll to OLB. Detroit kept him for a year at DE in their 4-3, and Denver took an opportunity to steal him and moved him into a scheme that plays much better to his strengths. The results so far are 9 games played, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovered for a TD and 2 passes defensed. He’s already eclipsed his one-year total tackles with 36 (beating 27 in Detroit last year).  

 
Beyond the emergence of Mays and the return of starter Robert Ayers, Denver has two good reasons to pick up Veikune. The first is simple - like Moss was hoped to, he’s got some skills as a pass rusher on the edge. With Elvis ‘Doom’ Dumervil out for the year, Denver is trying to position themselves for a potential playoff push. The loss of Doom for 2010 and the inability of Moss to step up on game days left a hole in the organization’s plans, and with starter Andre’ Goodman out, the secondary is weakened in degree (most of us would probably prefer developing Perrish Cox at this point anyway, but it did take time for Perrish to develop). Joe Mays is a brilliant run stopper, as everyone now knows and his coverage skills are better than was advertised, but he’s not a pass rusher. Jason Hunter is an excellent all-around player, and 3 sacks in 9 games is good, but not there with Doom’s level of ability. DJ Williams is an ILB and Haggan may now return to OLB with Mays playing so well at SILB, which will help on the sack total if this past week’s racking up of three sacks was any indication. Sure, they knew Cassel was going to throw, but even so, Haggan had a great day. The linemen didn’t try any less hard to stop him, and they had relatively little success.
 
Even so - Denver was a pass rusher short. Since San Diego is next, and their right tackle, Jerome Clary, has proved vulnerable to a power/speed rusher from the OLB, this could be the week that Denver finds out who they have. He won’t be able to pick up much of the playbook, but if he’s only going in on certain down/distance combinations with instructions to get to the QB, he might play in that capacity. 
 
It’s fair to point out that Veikune only scored an average of 4.79 on the 40-yard dash at Combine (his lowest was 4.68), but he also scored 35 reps on the 225-lb. bench press, better than many of the offensive linemen. Veikune got as many sacks at Hawaii via sheer power as he did speed, but in his defense, he seemed to know his moves. Either way - averaging 6 sacks a year in college is pretty good. 
 
After watching some highlight film - not a great way to scout, but you do what you can with what’s available - the only thing that really stood out was that he plays faster than he times, at least on the plays that I could find. It was no surprise. 16.5 tackles for loss plus the 9 sacks his senior year in college tells me that he likes to live in the opposing teams’ backfield. In Cleveland, he was moved to ILB, and from what I’ve gathered on the fan sites (not always a treasure trove of solid information, but a decent place to start) his release came as only a small surprise. Jarvis Moss’ came as none at all, and Denver is hoping that Veikune can be trained as a better substitute for him. 
 
The situation with Moss was one reason to bring in another potential OLB, and a second reason is simple - numbers and rotation. I’ve already heard fans asking why Denver wanted another possible transitioning DE/OLB. There’s a good reason for it. In a longer, tougher game, you try to keep your players fresh. Wesley Woodyard should come in on passing downs at ILB, and Mays, although I was pleasantly surprised by how well he handled coverage, will probably sit for them. DJ may need to be rested at times, and Woodyard and Mays can handle the ILB duties if that’s the case. Veikune has played some ILB and some OLB. If Ayers, Haggan or Hunter need a breather, we now have, in theory, another LB that we can hope will develop into giving the Broncos nearly a full second LB rotation. 
 
Mays will be handling the ST duties that he’s proud of - I’d expect Veikune to be trained there as well - and he’ll need to catch his breath at times. With Mays, Hunter, Woodyard and Veikune available for STs, any one of them can sit for a few moments during the kicking duties and catch their breath. Generally this isn’t necessary, but in addition to potential injury issues and the depth a team needs to overcome them, there are games that are longer and harder on the players than others. Having the right guy fresher at the end can be the point that turns a game into a win. (Not to mention that Darrell Reid was an unusually good ST player, but was lost to knee injuries. Mays and Veikune can replace a lot of what he did - clearing room for the players like McBath and Bruton to do their work). 
 
So, what happened to Moss? In short, a combination of sheer, unadulterated bad luck and a lack of the tools to take his game to the next level in the three systems that Denver has used. The first of those probably influenced the second, but in any case, you can’t take away from Denver their extensive attempts to develop Moss and to get him on the field. From his MVP on the 2009 scout team to the attempts to bring him along this season, Moss received every opportunity to show that he could play in the NFL. In the end, though, the answer, at least from Denver’s viewpoint, was that he couldn’t. 
 
Moss’ problems started with a high school injury to his hip. He awoke the next day, unable to move or dress himself. What made it worse was that no one knew what on earth was wrong with him. Earlier this season, I did a Broncography on him.  This is from The Independent Florida Gator:
Jarvis Moss woke up on a regular morning on a regular school day in Denton, Texas, expecting to go out and do great things.
 This was a day in the senior season of one of the top defensive ends in the country. Texas loves its high school football. Ryan High sure loved its Moss, a Parade All-American and USA Today First-Team All-American.
 This was supposed to be a normal morning, full of promise, hope and big hits.
 There was just one problem: Jarvis Moss could not walk.
 His chest tightened like a sheet of steel. His stomach hardened into a knot of excruciating pain. Moss climbed up in bed. The pain intensified. He slumped to the floor and reached for a pair of jeans.
 He could not dress himself; he could not walk.
I know from experience - that’s a terrifying thing to go through. And, no one could figure out why he was so ill, which is even worse. The final outcome was that they found that he’d developed a staph infection from the injection. IAOFM reader Ponderosa mentioned to me, at my request, that there is a layer beneath the skin in which staph germs live synergistically with the body. This is also true within the joint capsules. But hypodermic needles have a hollow opening and in most cases, a beveled tip that can pick up staph and carry it to other, inappropriate parts of the body. That’s one reason for standard post-operative antibiotics. The infection caused Moss to experience pain, exhaustion, weight loss and other symptoms. He also entered the NFL draft early, and on the basis of a videotape that Moss and his coaches put together, and with the support of Jeff Goodman, the southeast scout for Denver at the time, and Jim Bates, who wouldn't last out Moss’ first season, Jarvis was drafted in the first round by Denver. Mike Shanahan even traded up to obtain him at pick 17 of the first round. Fans were shocked and irritated by this, which made his tenure with the Broncos more difficult for them to understand. 
 
He lost a lot of time off of football, and that may have cost him in terms of learning the game and its intricacies - leaving college early likely didn't help. His first year with Denver, he broke his leg while preparing for a Week 9 game and missed the rest of the season. At 6’7” and slender in build anyway, Moss didn’t put on weight, which may, I’ve been told by other physicians, have been influenced by his staph infection experience. Since he apparently didn’t use that time to successfully learn more intellectually about the game and to read up on moves that he could add when he could move again, part of this still lies on his head. I’m not making excuses for his play - this is just the history of what happened. 
 
You know, it's interesting. Moss might not have been able to make the jump to the NFL anyway - that happens. But with the time lost to the staph infection and the broken bones in his leg, I've often wondered if he hadn't had that staph infection, would he have been able to learn the theory and the moves that he would need in the NFL? If he was the scout team MVP, shouldn't he have learned more? I don't put this on the coaches - OK, Shanny never should have taken him in the first place, and certainly not traded up (although I did, while researching him, find two draft sites that suggested that the mid-first round was an appropriate area for him to be picked - others varied from second to fourth round) - but other than that, he's had every chance in the book. It's tough, but that's on Jarvis at this point.
 
After all - Doom started at OLB at the same time, and did pretty well. I recognize that Moss is a very different kind of player - Doom is shorter, has long arms with a powerful body and strong hands. With Jarvis, it was more about his speed - one of the knocks on him in his predraft scouting reports was that he depended almost exclusively on speed, and hadn’t learned techniques such as the spin, rip and swim moves. From what I saw this season, he still hadn’t. The simple stuff may work in HS and college, but don’t bring that weak stuff to the NFL. It won’t work. 
 
Probably, he's just not good enough, and won't be. Robert Ayers asserted that he still believes in Moss and that he’ll find another, better situation in the NFL, and he knows him far better than I do. I wish Jarvis nothing but the best with that. After seeing him play some 4-3 DE and some 3-4 OLB, I honestly don't see him doing a Phonz and thriving on another team. Shanny's guys and McD's coaching staff both tried hard to make that work. Jarvis occasionally gave us all some hope that he could develop into a good, pass-rushing OLB over time. He had the time - just not the chops. And while that’s sad for him and for his family, it’s the way of the world in the NFL. 
 
But he never seemed to be anything but a nice guy who just didn’t have the ability to make the jump. He shouldn’t want for lack of money - he made $7.6 million in his 3.5 years with Denver. There’s lots of this kind of player around -  nice guys, people you root for and hope will do well, but who just don’t catch on with a certain team, regardless of system. I wish him nothing but the best in whatever he chooses to do next, and if he can find a better NFL home, more power to him. 
 
Take care, Jarvis. I hope that you find wherever it is that your heart - and your future - lies. 
 
Doc

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