Dezman Moses watched a screen-pass play develop in front of him and his instincts took over.
On the second day of the Chiefs’ three-day mandatory minicamp last week, Moses already found himself working with the first team. He’d just been signed a week before but fellow linebacker Dee Ford was out because of knee tendinitis.
Moses, a fifth-year veteran, knows the wisest NFL players take advantage of opportunities, even in offseason workouts. So it’s hard to blame him for smiling wide before describing how he saw the pass fluttering his way, somehow managed to tip it to himself, haul it in and streak upfield for a touchdown, prompting loud “ohs” from several teammates.
“I’ve been playing a lot of basketball, so really I just used my ball skills and tipped it to myself,” Moses said. “You guys saw the rest.”
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So did his coaches, who weren’t shy about sliding Moses right into the mix of their banged-up outside linebacker situation, which includes two Pro Bowlers (Justin Houston and Tamba Hali) and a former first-round pick (Ford) battling knee issues.
“He came back in real good shape,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Thursday. “We did a little conditioning thing here and he moved around very well.
Moses’ return (he played for the Chiefs from 2013-15) is interesting considering the Chiefs decided to sign several low-cost outside linebackers in unrestricted free agency like Jonathan Massaquoi, Andy Mulumba, Efe Obada and T.K. Kieras.
But after evaluating the linebacking corps for seven weeks, the Chiefs cut Obada and re-signed Moses, 27.
“Dez is a good football player,” Reid said. “He was still out there, so we needed some depth at that outside position. We know he knows the system and did a nice job. We’ve had a chance to look at some young guys and made the decision that Dez would fit in better.”
During his time with the Chiefs, Moses has logged the occasional defensive snap while contributing on special teams. But there’s a part of him still looking to surpass the production of his rookie year in 2012, when he recorded 27 tackles and four sacks in 16 games — six starts — with the Green Bay Packers.
With Houston, Hali, Ford and even veteran Frank Zombo blocking the way to playing time here, Moses was interested to see if he could find a better situation in free-agency.
“That was part of the wait, you know, to see if there was a place where I could obviously maybe compete for a starting spot,” Moses said. “But you’ve got to look at the big picture, and right now, this is the best place for me.
“A group of guys I’ve been with, some great, great players in the room, a great defense. You take all those things into account, along with the young talent we have. I was excited to come back.”
Not just because of the scheme, which he knows, but because of his personal connection with his teammates, some of whom were eager to see him return.
“Even when I was gone, guys were calling me, asking me where I was at,” Moses said. “So that always a good feeling, man. That made me feel good, let me know I was doing the right thing, continuing my process.”
The 6-foot-2, 249-pound Moses credits his friend and former teammate at the Iowa, Jordan Bernstine, for helping him hit the ground running once he rejoined the Chiefs. Moses trained with Bernstine in Denver for two to three hours a day, five or six days a week, this offseason.
“I was able to get top-tier training, able to get my work in every single day, so I was ready to be able to walk in and continue to play,” Moses said.
Still, Moses knows the hard part is ahead. He logged 58 defensive snaps a year ago, but he’ll have a battle on his hands if he wants than number to increase. The team is optimistic Houston will return from knee surgery this season and Hali still will get his fair share of snaps.
The club is also invested in Ford, while Zombo played nearly four times as many snaps as Moses did a year ago. But Moses is determined to prove he can help if called upon, as he did in that recent practice.
“We’ve got some Pro Bowlers, some great players,” Moses said of the Chiefs’ outside linebacker position. “But we’re all human, so when they’re not in there, when they’re not able to go, I’ve got to be the next guy up and I’ve got to go make my plays, also.”