Dontay Moch breaks through with Cardinals

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Dontay Moch that Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles knows on the Cardinals practice squad has been flying by the first-team offensive line.

Bowles hasn’t had time to pay attention to Moch’s underwhelming two-year stay in Cincinnati. He remembers Moch coming out of the University of Nevada as an undersized pass-rusher who made up for whatever he lacked with sheer speed. He ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL scouting combine and hasn’t slowed down.

“He’s fast. He came in fast,” Bowles said. “I remember him coming out he had a lot of production in college and he can get on the edge. He’s a tough kid. I haven’t seen much film on him from Cincinnati. It’s been about two years. I can only go by what I’ve seen in practice.”

Whatever Moch has been doing behind closed doors, it’s been enough to convince the Cardinals coaching staff he would be the best fit to replace Lorenzo Alexander as a starting outside linebacker against Tampa Bay on Sunday. Moch's two seasons as a Bengal was limited by injuries and off-field issues. According to an article in the Dayton Daily News, he missed his rookie season with a foot injury and migraines. Then in 2012, he was suspended the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s drug policy, according to that same story.

Arizona coach Bruce Arians said he talked to his counterpart in Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis, who didn’t want to lose Moch. As has been a common refrain this week in the Tampa area, football is a business, and Moch gets it.

“It’s tough but at the same time you got to understand it and come ready and be prepared,” he said. “I got the opportunity to come home to my hometown and do something that I as blessed to do with my life and just have to go out there and prove it now.”

And proving himself, he has.

Moch’s long arms and speed were the reasons why Arians wanted him and they’ve been the reasons why he’s been able to make a mark in Arizona. He’s stayed in his playbook since moving back, with the goal to eventually not think when he’s on the field.

“Just react and play,” Moch said. “So far, so good. Just going to go out there and make no errors.

“I’ve been at the SAM and doing my typical rush things and just go to be a factor and really not think and just play.”

For a team that’s been lacking a speed rush, Moch might have found himself in the right place at the right time. The Cardinals have just five sacks this season, due largely in part to a lack of a speedy outside rush.

If Moch can use his speed to get off the edge, the inside can open up for the likes of Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell.

And Arians is looking forward to seeing that happen.

“We had a lot of high grades on him,” Arians said. “I think he’s going to bring a speed asset to us, increase our team speed. I’m anxious to see him play. In practice he’s been tough to block. He’s earned this right.”

Moch has been frustrated with how the past couple of years have unfolded. But he’s turned it into motivation, working harder and longer to see the field.

He knows what his strengths are and he’s been playing to those because, above all else, they’ll help him see the field.

“I’m a predator out there,” he said. “I’m not no prey. And that’s for sure.”

If Moch can stay healthy and clean in Arizona, he could find a home in his hometown. Moch grew up in Chandler and attended Hamilton High School, so returning to the Cardinals was an easy choice when they signed him to the practice squad on Sept. 2.

“It was great,” Moch said. “Hometown, you can’t get any better than that. You kill both things with one stone -- I get to be home with family and at the same time do my job.

“Can't get no better than that.”