Tyler Dunne for BuffaloFootballReport.com
Could be a scary omen. Last season, Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt broke down like beat-up Chevys. Blame Harrison's injuries. Blame the St. Louis Rams' slapdash offensive line. Fact is, both elite wide receivers lost their legs. Jacksonville is banking Holt has a little juice left. And so far, nobody is gambling on Harrison.
Are Randy Moss and/or Terrell Owens next? This quartet has collectively redefined the wide receiver position for the past decade. But all good things must come to an end.
|Dallas Cowboys Terrell Owens demonstrates his his workout routine for reporters. Sept. 23, 2008 (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)|
Just don't expect T.O. or Moss to crumble any time soon. Both keep themselves in remarkable shape and one isn't afraid to (disgustingly) show it off.
Unlike Harrison and Holt, Owens and Moss rely on physical prowess. Not precise route running. As long as they stay in shape, they'll produce. Who will last longer? Owens. His subpar numbers last season - 69 receptions for 1,069 yards and 10 touchdowns - hints that the finish line may be in sight. Owens is 35 years old and led the league in drops last year. But as long as a NFL team puts up with the sideshow nonsense, T.O. will remain an elite receiver.
Because beneath the rubbish of nude photos, sit-ups in parking lots and me-first celebrations, is a workout warrior. This is pro football. Some team somewhere is always willing to brush aside locker room antics for talent. Owens' skill set will outlast Moss. Whenever his track speed begins to taper, T.O. can still outmuscle defensive backs. When Moss' speed fades, it might be difficult to stay on top - even with Tom Brady.
Moss tip-toes around contact in the open field. Owens embraces it. He makes his cuts and attacks the ball with authority. He's a match-up nightmare. Impossible to bump at the line and too fast to catch up with after that. If the ball's in his zip code, T.O. will always have the edge in strength - a quality has a healthy shelf life in the NFL. With the Cowboys, as his career progressed, Owens began to use his body more effectively than ever in traffic.
When it comes to offseason training, Owens treats teammates like flabby, annoying, talking-for-15-minutes-in-between-set 50 year-olds. He trains alone. No distractions. Purely in T.O. zone. While this habit clearly has damaged team chemistry, it has made him the bionic action figure he is today.
Desperation rules in the modern league. There will always be a home for T.O. - no matter how obnoxious he gets. Moss' speed and athleticism is bound to diminish at some point. Not any time soon, but at some point.
As long as T.O. remains in attack mode in the gym, he'll remain in attack mode on the field. Will it be in Buffalo beyond 2009? Eh. Depends what Russ Brandon's boiling point is.
For T.O., talent has yet to trump tirades.
Jon Scott for Patriots Insider
|Randy Moss set the single-season TD record with this 65-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady against the New York Giants Dec. 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)|
At first blush, the choice between Moss and Owens lasting longer in the league comes down to the punishment factor and injury history. It could be as simple as who's younger. Many believe that older receivers break down faster, and for the most part, they're right. Throw in a heaping dose of crosschecks from safeties over the middle and you can see why the position has taken its toll on plenty of players before this duo. Moss is 32 while Owens will be 36 in December.
Age isn't the end game here, but it has much to do with the final result. Few players last into their late thirties as their physical bodies just can't keep up with younger players. Even players with legendary preparation slow down, struggling to maintain their production as the years go by. Owens has the reputation of working hard to sculp his hard body, but so does Moss (as evidenced here).
Moss has speed, Owens has power, quite simply that's the difference. Moss' ability to outrun the defense has contributed to his phenomenal production. His amazing hands will continue to serve him well when the speed diminishes. Owens' ability to get yards -- as wells as breaking tackles -- after the catch has been his strong suit, unfortunately his his hands have not.
When you compare the numbers, both receivers are fairly close. Both have averaged nearly 15 yards per catch (Owens- 14.8 vs Moss 15.7) over the course of their careers so far.
|Oakland Raiders' Jerry Rice (80) had two 1,000-yard seasons in Oakland; one at 39 and one at the age of 40. (AP Photo/David Duprey)|
In his 14th season in the league, Owens amassed 14,122 yards (1,086 per season) while Moss has 13,201 (1,200 per year) over 11 seasons.. To think that will continue is naive. Even the legendary Jerry Rice (stats), who played unto his early 40s, started slowing down when he turned 36. Rice averaged more than 14 yards per catch his first 9 seasons, and 10 out of his first 11 years in the league. After that, he managed the feat just once more (not including his final year (when he only caught 30 passes) at the age of 36. Rice did have three 1,000 yard seasons after hit turned 35 (Owens' age). Two of them came when he was the focus of the Oakland offense after leaving San Francisco.
Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith and Issac Bruce are other good examples of what happens to receivers when they hit 35. The Smiths are retired now, but Bruce continues on.
Jimmy Smith (stats) had a 1,000-yard season at 35, and another at 36, before calling it a career after 13 seasons. Rod Smith (stats) had a 1,000-yard season at 35 then injuries limited his following season to half that (512 yards in 52 catches) before he called it quits. Bruce (stats) last had a 1,000-yard season at 34 (he's 36 now) and continues to show signs of slowing down after leaving Mike Martz's pass-happy offense in St. Louis.
To look at Moss' future, you can compare him to another receiver who used his speed to beat defenses, Oakland's Tim Brown (stats). Brown played 17 seasons in the league, and his final 1,000 yard season came in his 14th season when he turned 35.
The competition will be close, but assuming Tom Brady sticks around for a while, the edge in the Moss vs T.O. comparison swings heavily in favor of the New Englander. In three years Moss is almost certain to be a 1,000-yard quality wideout on par with the Tim Brown, Torry Holt and Jerry Rices out there while Owens will be 39 and has a remote chance in matching Rice's 1,100 yard season at the same age. While it's possible T.O.'s physical condition will provide him ample opportunity to play at 39 few players have been productive at that age. Rice did manage one more season of 1,000-yard production. Moss should have little problem outlasting Owens at that point assuming he wants to keep playing beyond 36.Bang it here for Part I of this series. And here for Part II.