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Rookie Tre’von Moehrig heading home for Thanksgiving

Tre’von Moehrig expects his mother to continue her Thanksgiving tradition of watching the Cowboys game just like she has for as long as he can remember.

She’ll just be cheering for a different team this time.

Moehrig will lead the Raiders defense into a pivotal matchup with the Cowboys at 1:30 p.m. with his team’s playoff chances on life support.

His mother will lead a large contingent of friends and family into the stands at AT&T Stadium as Moehrig makes his return to Texas.

“I definitely had to get a bunch of tickets,” said the native of Spring Branch, about 250 miles away. “Some of them are definitely Cowboys fans. At the end of the day, they said they’re pulling for me. They’ve grown up with me and they’re my friends and family, so they’ll be pulling for me and my team.”

They should get to see plenty of him on the field.

Moehrig was an instant starter as the single-high safety in Gus Bradley’s defense and has played all but six defensive snaps this season.

He has thrived in the role. The second-round pick ranks fourth among all rookie defensive backs according to Pro Football Focus. He’s fifth in coverage and seventh in run defense.

“I really like his demeanor, not just his on-the-field play,” Bradley said. “Nothing has been too big for him. In practice, when you watch him, he’s so impressive as far as taking angles and understanding what’s asked of him. He’s just playing with a lot of poise and a lot of confidence back there. He’s been a pretty sure tackler. He’s played at a pretty high level for us.”

Last week, Moehrig recognized Bengals’ star Ja’Marr Chase had single coverage backside on a play quarterback Joe Burrow executed a play fake with boot action. It was a look Moehrig knew from film study often meant they would take a deep shot.

He broke on the play and broke up what could have been a touchdown.

“Dude is lights out,” defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. “He ain’t been playing like no rookie. He’s been doing everything the coaches have asked. He’s definitely a player … we can count on out there to get everything organized on the back end.”

Linebacker Cory Littleton called Moehrig a “baller” and “exactly what you want in a safety.”

It’s a good thing his teammates and coaches offer such high praise, because Moehrig isn’t the braggadocious type.

“I just try to take it one day, one practice at a time,” he said. “I’m the kind of guy that’s not doing too much or saying too much about it. I’m just trying to do my job and don’t need too much recognition for it. I’m just trying to do my best for the team.”

It’s a philosophy he has been following since his days growing up just northeast of San Antonio, where he remembers spending the fourth Sunday of every November pretty much the same way each year.

“Obviously just getting a big plate of food, chilling with the family, grubbing out and just watching a good football game,” said Moehrig, who once played at AT&T Stadium as a freshman at nearby Texas Christian against Ohio State.

He admitted to cheering for the Cowboys growing up, mostly because it was the team his mother and the rest of the family rooted for in those days.

That changed on draft day.

“At the end of the day, business is business,” he said. “I’m glad to be a Raider. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

As Moehrig grew up and got better and better on the field, he started to watch those Thanksgiving games a different way.

“You’re with the family and watching the TV and just imagining it could be you one day,” he said. “Playing Thanksgiving day or Christmas day, whatever the case may be. You just see yourself playing in those big games. It’s a suerral moment to be here.”

He has watched Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott for years. Now he will be trying to keep them out of the end zone.

Moehrig and the rest of the Raiders defense may not have to worry about star receivers Amari Cooper (COVID-19) and CeeDee Lamb (concussion), but it’s still a potent offense.

“They’re still dangerous with Dak and their backs,” he said. “And they still have good receivers. We’re just going to have to do a good job containing them no matter who it is. We just have to come out with the mentality of stopping the run and doing our thing on the back end in coverage.”

That’s how Moehrig tries to approach every game, even if he realizes there is something special about Thursday’s game. He’ll allow himself a little time to appreciate that much.

“Our coaches said Thanksgiving games are big games and they’re special,” he said. “You’ll remember them forever. It’s going to be big going back home and seeing some familiar faces, going back and playing in the stadium again. I think it will be another surreal moment.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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