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Giants believe Damontre Moore could be diamond in rough

Giants' Damontre Moore, left, blocks a punt by

Giants' Damontre Moore, left, blocks a punt by Pittsburgh Steelers punter Drew Butler (9) in the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game. (Aug. 10, 2013) Credit: AP

PITTSBURGH - Giants general manager Jerry Reese knew the kind of potential he was getting in third-round defensive end Damontre Moore.

"A lot of people thought he'd be drafted in the first round because of his talent," Reese said. "He's only 20 years old, and he has a lot of ability."

Reese plucked Jason Pierre-Paul out of obscurity three years ago and saw him quickly develop into a star pass rusher. Has he hit on another unsung gem on the defensive line?

It's still very early in the process, but the Giants' coaches love what they've seen in practice. And in Moore's first live action -- albeit in the preseason -- the former Texas A&M sack specialist flashed the kind of ability that makes Reese optimistic about what lies ahead.

With Pierre-Paul recovering from offseason back surgery and Justin Tuck out of the lineup with back stiffness, it was Moore who provided the most consistent pass rush in Saturday night's preseason opener against the Steelers. He was in Ben Roethlisberger's face on several occasions. And when Roethlisberger was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski, Moore chased after him, too.

In the second quarter, he chased down running back Jonathan Dwyer from the back side and made the tackle. On another play, he dropped into pass coverage near the line of scrimmage and dropped Dwyer for a 1-yard loss after a dump-off pass.

Moore didn't make an impact only on defense, either. After the Steelers were penalized on their first punt and had to try another, Moore sliced through the line and made the block at the Steelers' 13. The ball was recovered by Giants special-teamer/wide receiver Louis Murphy and returned to the 5, setting up a 23-yard field goal by Josh Brown.

Plenty to like with this kid. "He's been a young man that's gotten our attention, and we're excited about watching his progress," Tom Coughlin said.

How did Moore think he did? Not as well as you might think. "I made a lot of mistakes out there," he said. "I'm ready to get in here, watch film and learn from my mistakes and get better."

Mistakes? Really?

"I lost contain on the edges a little bit," he said. "I put my team in a bad situation on a couple of plays. I want to learn from it and try to get better."

Moore did take a bow on the punt block, though.

"I just ran and made the play," he said. "It was all surprising to me. I'm just glad the coaches put me in a great situation."

So what did other teams miss when they passed on Moore early in the draft? Well, for one thing, there were questions about where the 6-5, 250-pounder would fit in on an NFL defense. Some teams saw him as a bigger outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. Others -- including the Giants -- considered him a 4-3 defensive end.

A bigger issue was Moore's work ethic, a reputation he developed at Texas A&M, where he didn't always practice hard. Moore didn't help his cause with a poor effort at the scouting combine, where he put up only 12 reps in the bench press, the worst of all the defensive linemen, and ran a slow 4.95 in the 40. He also was arrested in 2011 for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana.

The Giants were well aware of the issues when he came to the team, and two key veterans took it upon themselves to put Moore on the right track. When the two first met, Eli Manning told him to work hard. Tuck visited Moore's locker in May and left a note that said, "I hope you are ready to work."

Moore has done just that in practice, drawing praise from his coaches and teammates.

Said defensive line coach Robert Nunn, "I think he's going to give us a lot of versatility and do some different things for us, and I really see him contributing as a rookie. He's got some growing up to do, he's got to help us on special teams, but the guy is off to an outstanding start."

That's especially important given the Giants' situation at defensive end. Tuck is expected back in a matter of days, but Pierre-Paul's status for the regular-season opener against the Cowboys is in question. And don't forget the Giants didn't re-sign veteran pass rusher Osi Umenyiora, now with the Falcons. Moore's emergence couldn't have come at a better time.

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