Sio Moore finds balance between fun and focus

Allen on Sio Moore: 'I think he can be a solid pass rusher'

Sio Moore finds balance between fun and focus
October 31, 2013, 8:30 am
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Sio Moore is now playing the best football of his fledgling career, with numbers to back it up. (AP)

Sio Moore on Nick Roach: “I watched how he went about his business and started taking better notes and staying more organized." (USATSI)

Programming note: Watch Thursday’s Raiders press conference with Dennis Allen, Jason Tarver and Greg Olson streaming live online right here at 1:10pm

Raiders linebacker Sio Moore is always seems in good spirits. The locker room jester is always up to no good after practice, messing with teammates during interviews or launching an attack in the ongoing prank war against friend and roommate D.J. Hayden.

It’s hard to get him down. Unless, of course, Hayden has hidden his keys.

At times this season, without reporters milling about, the rookie third-round pick has turned down that thousand-watt smile. It nearly went dark a few weeks back, when ineffectiveness struck hard.

Moore played 53 snaps against the Washington Redskins and had a tackle -- he missed two others – to show for it. He barely played the next week, although that was less Moore that circumstance, because the Raiders were stuck in a nickel package all night. Still, he wasn’t living up to his bold proclamation, that he was the best linebacker in this year’s draft.

Moore didn’t sulk. He found inspiration instead. He’s chosen to follow middle linebacker Nick Roach’s lead and become a consummate pro.

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Dividends paid quickly.

Moore is playing the best football of his fledgling career, with numbers to back it up. He has 2 ½ sacks, a quarterback hit and three hurries in his last two games. He has four stops without a missed tackle in that span.

Moore has the details to thank for that. And his old pal Nick.

“I watched how he went about his business and started taking better notes and staying more organized,” Moore sad. “I’m looking for more details now, and I'm being more precise. I’m asking more questions and staying focused when it really matters. That attention to little things is starting to pay off. I’m glad to have leaders on this team who can set the right example.”

Increased focus didn’t come from a lecture or mandate. Coaches had preached focus to this fun-loving cat – he once ran through Great America amusement park dressed up as Superman (Hayden was Batman, naturally) – but his motivation came from inside. He wanted to do better. Talent alone wasn’t going to get the job done.

“Most of the time these rookies, they don’t know what it takes to prepare to be a pro,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “Nine-out-of-10 times a lot of them have gotten by on athletic ability alone, but you can’t get by on it in this league. He’s a guy that’s learned, and I think now he’s getting better at preparing himself to play on Sunday.”

Playing well in games starts during the week. For Moore, it starts with detailed notes and color coordination. It comes from marking tendencies and being critical of oneself, even when no one else is. Simply put: If you do your homework, you’re better prepared for the test.

Moore never asked to copy off Roach’s paper. He just did it.

“There was nothing specific that was said,” Roach said. “Sio’s been trying to do things the right way and to do things efficiently. I take notes in a certain way and go through meetings and apply things in practice in a particular way, and if he picked it up without a big speech, I think that’s more of a credit to him than me. It’s clear he did some self-scouting, and found ways to help himself get organized and be a better pro.”

[RELATED: Sio Moore stats | 2013 game logs]

He still acts like a kid sometimes, but he's found a proper time and place. After practice and before meetings, prank away. He snuck into a post-practice media scrum around cornerback Tracy Porter on Wednesday wearing a squirrel mask, trying to make him laugh on camera. Porter wouldn’t break, but the locker room got a good laugh out of it.

It’s that balance of focus and fun that has helped Moore play a role in the locker room and play more efficiently, although he’s far from a season’s peak. He’s finally finding his niche as a pass rusher, which in turn helps the Raiders play more dynamic defense.

“He’s got some good pass-rush ability,” Allen said. “The more that he continues to study, not just schematically what we’re doing, but the more he’s able to study his opponent and see how their playing him, where they’re putting their hands, those little things — the techniques and the fundamentals of playing the game, that’s when we’ll see some real progress being made.”