If A.J. Moore keeps performing the way he has in camp, he'll be much more than a standout special-teamer.
He'll be a serious contributor on defense.
In 2018 as an undrafted rookie, Moore was the tip of the spear for a revitalized Texans special teams unit. After over a decade of struggles in kickoff and punt coverage, the Texans vaulted to the top of the NFL in opponents' starting field position, and Moore led the squad in tackles.
Last season, the Texans were again excellent in coverage, and Moore's tackle totals rose as he led the way in that statistic.
But in training camp, his name has come up every day after practice because of plays he's making on special teams AND defense. Whether it's General manager/Head coach Bill O'Brien, or defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver, or safety Justin Reid, someone has raved about Moore's heroics.
On the final play of Thursday evening's intrasquad scrimmage inside NRG Stadium, Moore came up with an acrobatic interception. It wasn't the first time this August he's made a big impression.
"He's made a lot of plays," O'Brien said. "He's always been good. He just plays with a lot of passion, a lot of energy. He's a smart player. He loves football. He's got really good personality. He's made a lot of plays and the guys enjoy playing with him and he enjoys playing on this team."
Moore was tied for fifth in the NFL last season with 13 special teams tackles. But with how he's performed on defense, he might be picking off passes and picking up sacks in the regular season.
"A.J. Moore will absolutely have a role," Weaver said. "He is a major contributor for us on special teams, but on defense there is absolutely a place for him. He's made plays throughout this entire camp and he made plays last year in camp as well."
Weaver pointed out that early in camp last season he was making plays. He likes the "juice" Moore brings to the defense, and said there are many different spots where the third-year defensive back might contribute.
"He can play safety," Weaver said. "You can play him at money. You can play him at multiple spots and we're going to utilize his skill set to do that."
Moore's aspirations for 2020 have been two-fold.
"Individually, my goal would always be to be the leader in special teams tackles," Moore said. "I would like to get more involved on defense. I kind of got more involved later in the season, this past season and got my first sack. That was super awesome. I'll just to do whatever I'm asked to do."
Moore's twin brother C.J. is a defensive back and special teamer with the Detroit Lions. Their cousin Cornell Armstrong is a Texans cornerback. The trio trained together in Houston during the pandemic. Back then, they had to balance how intense to work out physically, with the uncertainty of when practice and physical work with their respective teams would happen.
"There is a certain way that people train," Moore said in June. "For me and my bros, we like to start to turn it up a notch when we know we're about to play, and get back started. But we have no idea."
Whatever the Moores and Armstrong did, it benefitted A.J. Moore. So too, did the extra Zoom time with his defensive and special teams mates in April, May and June.
"The virtual meetings were so very beneficial," Moore said. "We were not only just focusing on plays, but it was a great thing for us to get a chance to get a feel for our new teammates. Just be able to build chemistry. We got a lot done. With the circumstances that we were given, I don't think we could do anything better in that. So I definitely feel like we took full advantage with with those meetings."
Reid was a rookie with Moore. The starting safety, and a key special-teamer the last two seasons, has a unique perspective on his teammate.
"A.J. Moore has been shining," Reid said. "I like what I've seen from A.J. He's been making plays. He's been doing an excellent job. I've got nothing but good things to say about A.J. He's a hard worker. You can already expect the energy he's going to bring. He brings it every single time. He's a great player."
Moore and the Texans will scrimmage again inside NRG Stadium on Wednesday night. They begin the regular season on Thursday Night Football, September 10 in Kansas City.