Skai Moore had an impressive story, going from being undrafted to starting for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. But now, the former South Carolina linebacker may be looking for a new job.
On Friday, Moore was released by the Colts after playing in each of the first three games of the season. The former Gamecock started the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals and had two total tackles in three games.
Moore signed with the Colts in May, after not being selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. He was second on the team with 16 tackles during the preseason.
Over his four seasons at South Carolina, Moore collected 353 tackles and four interceptions. He led the Gamecocks in tackles each of those four years.
There is a chance Moore joins the Colts’ practice squad, if he clears waivers.
While the Indianapolis Colts selected three linebackers in the 2018 NFL Draft, one of the more intriguing additions to the unit comes in the form of undrafted free agent Skai Moore.
A product of South Carolina, the former Gamecock wasn’t selected in the draft despite the fact that some pegged him to be a late-round prospect. With the Colts signing him after the draft, they may have gotten some solid value.
Adding depth and competition to the front seven is Chris Ballard’s goal as he lays the foundation for the rebuild and Moore should be able to provide that while also being a solid fit for the new defense.
As the Colts switch their alignment to a 4-3, they will also be implementing a Tampa 2 scheme, which will heavily feature looks in zone coverage. While Moore can hold his own in man coverage despite his limitations, he should be able to find more success when dropping into a zone as a Will linebacker.
Moore also brings a high football intelligence and great instincts to the middle of the field.
He might be a little undersized at 6-foot-2 and 226 pounds. His 4.73 40-yard dash time also leaves a bit more to be desired, but his production at South Carolina shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Moore recorded 14 interceptions at a consistent pace throughout his four years with the Gamecocks as a starter and he isn’t afraid to get to the ball carrier as he recorded no less than 93 tackles over his final three seasons.
Ballard would likely also want Moore to grab special teams snaps as his hard-hitting mentality could be a perfect way for him to see the field early on in his career should he stay on the roster.
There are limitations to Moore’s game, which likely led him to slide in the draft, but in a linebacking corps that doesn’t have any set starters, Moore could be an intriguing fit for the Colts.
INDIANAPOLIS — Just because the regular season has begun doesn’t mean that competition for starting spots is over.
One of the primary focuses of training camps around the NFL are position battles. While they are largely settled in the summer heat in August, players don’t just turn off a switch when the regular season arrives and become complacent to be a backup.
Indianapolis Colts second-year linebacker Anthony Walker was the first-team MIKE linebacker throughout the offseason program, OTAs, minicamps and when training camp began. However, a groin injury derailed his summer, keeping him out of the entire preseason and almost all of training camp.
Undrafted rookie free agent Skai Moore took the majority of the first-team reps at MIKE in Walker’s absence and played quite well both in practice and the preseason. His sideline-to-sideline range that he showed collegiately at South Carolina and ability to stay around the ball in coverage translated to the practice field as he transitioned to the NFL.
However, as the NFL regular season has returned for 2018, so has Walker, who was able to log enough practice time last week to play in the Colts’ opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Moore earned the start — having taken the bulk of the first-team reps through the summer — but the coaching staff rotated Moore and Walker throughout the game, each receiving multiple drives.
What’s ironic about this storyline? Any sense of a friendly competition is nothing new to Walker and Moore, who were rivals on the gridiron back in high school in Florida (Walker, for the record, conceded Moore was better based off the fact Moore’s team beat his team to advance in the state tournament).
Now teammates at the highest level, however, Walker and Moore are enjoying the chance to grow their games together.
“They’ve got me and Anthony rotating right now,” Moore told Colts.com this week. “We’re feeding off each other, so it’s a good deal so far.”
By game’s end last Sunday, Moore saw 27 defensive snaps and Walker was in for 23 as well as 16 special teams plays.
“Yeah, I was excited just to be out there with my teammates,” Walker said this week. “You know, I missed the whole preseason; hadn’t played a game since December of last year. So, just to be back out there with the pads on, I was happy for that. But Me and Skai, we were able to do a solid job at the MIKE spot. We both definitely have to get better, but it was a solid job by both of us.”
For Moore, receiving reps in live game action helps move his development along. You can see certain things in practice, and then totally different things against a preseason opponent, but nothing compares to getting reps during an actual in-season game.
Walker is also still developing after being able to only see extensive action in two games last year as a rookie, largely due to a hamstring injury. He started the final two games of the season and tallied 22 tackles (one for loss) by season’s end.
Walker is now getting the game reps to match the mental reps he’s taken all summer. When he was drafted, one of his biggest “pros” was the fact that he was a coach’s son and acted as a quarterback on the field for the defense. Being the MIKE linebacker, you are in charge of making the on-field calls for the defense and making sure everybody is where they’re supposed to be.
“Being the MIKE, whether you’re in or out, you have to know everything that’s going on; the ins and outs of the defense,” Walker said. “So, when you are in, you’re able to just make the calls that need to be called for the defense and all that.
“The mental reps were big for me this offseason, (since) I didn’t get much reps in camp,” he continued. “Just the mental reps, and when I was able to get back out there I didn’t feel like I was too off from everything.”
Going forward, we will just have to see how the coaches proceed with Moore and Walker’s in-game reps. Are these reps for Walker just to help him get back into game shape after several weeks on the sideline? Or may we see him reclaim his starting MIKE spot?
One thing for certain is it doesn’t hurt to have two sharp, young talented players calling the shots in the middle of the defense throughout the game.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The NFL welcomed 256 new players this weekend, but none were one of the best linebackers in South Carolina history.
Skai Moore was not selected in the NFL Draft and will pursue a free-agent opportunity with Indianapolis. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound fifth-year senior was a playmaker throughout his college career but professional teams may have been put off by his lack of size as a potential NFL linebacker.
Moore has never played defensive back, which his size seems to dictate as the best bet for playing at the next level. In the size-first world of the NFL, teams ignored the constant winning presence Moore brought to every game he played.
Moore became just the 15th player in NCAA Division I history to lead his team in tackles for four straight seasons and was a first-team All-SEC selection as a senior. He tied the school record with 14 interceptions, an eye-popping number for a linebacker, and finished second in school history with 213 solo tackles.
Moore returned from redshirting the entire 2016 season after neck surgery and fought T.J. Brunson for the tackles lead most of the season. He overcame Brunson and finished with 353 for his career, which ranks sixth in the record books.
It’s all about filling needs in the NFL, especially in the later rounds, and that could have been why Moore was left undrafted. Yet that’s not the end of the road — many players have gone on to great success in the NFL despite being undrafted, most notably former Gamecock Terry Cousin, who played 12 seasons despite not hearing his name called on draft day.
World champion Philadelphia drafted 6-8, 346-pound Jordan Mailata, an Australian rugby player who has never played a minute of American football. Chris Lammons (Atlanta), Cory Helms (New Orleans), Taylor Stallworth (New Orleans), Dante Sawyer (Kansas City), Alan Knott (San Francisco) and Jamarcus King (Oakland) were confirmed as signing free-agent deals as of Saturday night.
First-round selection Hayden Hurst was the only Gamecock drafted.