ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For a second-year safety, Denver's Rahim Moore has lofty aspirations.
"I want to be the best safety to ever do it," Moore said. "That's my goal and that's why I strive to work harder every day. I want to be the best ever. I have a lot of hard work to put in. I have to do it year in and year out, and I still have to keep putting it down every week, putting good stuff on film. That's my ultimate goal. I'm not here to be average. When it's all said and done, I want to be a great one to come out of Denver Broncos history."
Moore acknowledges the steep hill that lies ahead of him if he is going to finish his career in the elite class of NFL safeties. But if he improves each year like he has from 2011 to 2012, there's no telling how high he can climb.
As a rookie out of UCLA, he started the first five NFL games of his career. He ended up with 31 tackles and an interception in 15 games and seven starts.
This year, Moore has hardly left the field. He has started 12 of 13 games for the Broncos – the exception coming when Denver started its Week 2 game in a goal-line formation -- and has played in 97 percent of the team's defensive snaps. In two fewer games than he saw action in last year, Moore has nearly doubled his tackle total, which is currently at 59.
"I'm playing better than I ever have," Moore said. "I'm tired of hearing about last year. It's over with. It's about putting that stuff in the past. If you put the film on now, it's a different No. 26 every week. It's a different 26 then they saw last year. The tape doesn't lie."
Experience is one of the biggest factors that Moore points to for his 2012 rise. His first full offseason gave him an opportunity to get stronger and more technically sound on the field. Most importantly, he learned how to spend his time throughout each week in order to be as ready as possible for Sunday.
"The film study I'm putting in is paying off," Moore said. "From me waking up early in the morning, watching film before meetings start, up early, up late, it shows."
Moore calls himself a "quarterback" of the defense, which makes it especially important for him to know what the defense in front of him should be doing, and what the opposing offense is going to do.
He and some of the other defensive backs on the team have made it a habit to spend extra time in the film room. On gameday, there's less thinking among the players in the secondary and more acting on what they see.
"When the first series comes, and throughout the game, we're like, 'Hey! Remember that play we saw all week? It's right here!'" Moore said. "And then we go out there and execute. All we're doing is playing fast. We're on one page."
A firm grasp of the defense – a result of meticulous preparation and his first full offseason in the NFL – has allowed the safety to play with more freedom and comfort. That's much different than last year, as he was put in catch-up mode from the lack of a true training camp during the league's lockout.
"This year, I am able to do more," he said. "Last year, I was kind of vanilla. There wasn't much to do because we had a short period of time to really be creative with things. Now, this year, we're more creative, so I'm more creative."
But the most improved aspect of his game, if you ask his coach, is his tackling.
"You watch him play last year, you'd think the guy couldn't tackle," said Assistant Secondary Coach Sam Garnes, who mostly works with the safeties. "And now he's one of the best tackling safeties in the NFL. And that's bar none, he's one of the best tackling safeties in the NFL. We've got to keep trying to get him around that ball. That's it."
It's going to take a non-stop combination of everything for many years to come – the preparation, the practice and the execution – if Moore is going to be the player he wants to become. All that remains to be seen, but his passion for the game and hunger to improve has him headed in the right direction.
"This is my mindset because I want to be a successful person when I die," Moore said. "I want to be a difference-maker for my family. When you work hard, that's fun to me. When it's all said and done, either you leave this world average or you're going to leave with a mark, and that's what I want to do."