NFL analyst gets technical on Moss

NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell views as much as tape as anyone in the media and see when Randy Moss is most effective. He discusses situations in which Moss thrives and when he is limited, and how Moss might fit in with the Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre and the Vikings.

As a senior producer at NFL Films and the creator and supervising producer of the preeminent Xs and Os television show, NFL Matchup, Greg Cosell has keen insight into personnel throughout the league. Cosell, who along with Ron Jaworksi and David Plaut wrote the recently released book, The Games That Changed The Game, studies copious amounts of coaching tape every week. Below are his thoughts about Randy Moss and the potential impact No. 84 could have in Minnesota beginning with tonight's game against the Jets.

Tom Speicher: Much has been made of the fact that Randy Moss only had nine catches in four games with the Patriots. Should that limited production in the season's first quarter be a cause for concern for Viking fans who expect him to light it up?

Greg Cosell: I don't think the debate should be framed that way. The debate should be framed this way: Moss is going from a shotgun, spread offense, in which defenses clearly defended pass first, to a run-based offense that is based on two backs and a tight end or one back and two tight ends, in which defenses must essentially commit an eighth defender to the run game.

When you do commit an eighth defender as a primary run-support player, there are fewer players in coverage and corners don't press in those coverages. Moss is a free-access receiver. He's a build-up speed receiver. You can press Moss in Cover-2 because there is always a safety over the top to his side. When he's pressed, he's not very effective. When he has free access and can build up speed, he becomes a much more effective player. He'll have more opportunities for free access in the Vikings' system.

TS: Throughout his career, Moss has been pegged as a guy who will take plays off at times. In fact, he was accused by the Jets of dogging it when the Patriots played them a few weeks ago. Have you seen evidence on tape that he is quitting on plays?

GC: That to me is not even worth discussing because every receiver does that at times. It's a pointless conversation.

TS: Moss admits he's a step slower than earlier in his career but calls himself a smarter football player. What's the "eye in the sky" say?

GC: He's right-on about his game. I haven't seen any deterioration other than the fact that he's not quite as dynamically explosive as he was in 2004. He's a vertical stretch receiver who in his prime ate up ground quicker and better than maybe any receiver in NFL history. He'd take four steps and be 15 yards down the field. Sidney Rice, even though he is a big man who caught deep balls last year, is not a true vertical receiver. Moss still is a true vertical receiver.

TS: Will Moss and the existing offensive personnel in Minnesota complement one another?

GC: Nothing in the NFL exists in a vacuum. In his best years, Moss played in Minnesota with Cris Carter and played in New England in a great-schemed offense with a terrific slot receiver (Wes Welker). This is taking nothing away from Moss, but that's a really important thing to understand. He was in situations where his particular skill set could flourish. I can't sit here and say that he is now going to catch eight balls a game for 150 yards. But the elements are in place for that to possibly happen again.

TS: That's true even though the offense, except for Adrian Peterson, has struggled so far?

GC: Adrian Peterson is hands-down the best back in football. Sixty-three percent of his yards come after contact. I think (Brett) Favre has played fine. I think Favre is the least of their worries on offense to be honest with you. I think the problem is the offensive line. At the end of the day, I think it's the biggest problem with the team. I think the line has underachieved the past couple of years, and at this point, its play has been average to below average. They can't protect Favre and he needs to be protected. The second biggest problem is the fact that their receivers haven't been able to get open versus man coverage.

TS: The presence of Moss will help with the latter point, correct? Percy Harvin can now move back to the slot where he should be much more comfortable.

GC: Right now in his career, Harvin is not a Z-receiver. When you're the Z-receiver, you are running routes against corners. When you're in the slot, you're working between the numbers against linebackers and safeties. That's a big difference. Yes, Harvin will be much more effective in the slot. Visanthe Shiancoe will benefit greatly from Moss as well. Shiancoe is a vertical seam receiver from the tight end position who can be detached from the formation. He is a lower-cased Jermichael Finley. He doesn't have Finley's physical skill set because no one does but he can be used the same way.

TS: You think Favre and Moss will make for a good marriage?

GC: Let's put it this way, Brett Favre never has a problem putting the ball out there. So he is going to throw it to Randy Moss. He has no problem throwing the ball deep or trying to make stick throws into tight windows. We know that has never been an issue for Favre, so he is going to throw it to Randy Moss.

TS: Before the trade, the Vikings looked to me to be at best an 8-8 team. Now with Moss, I believe they have a legitimate shot to make the postseason. Would you agree?

GC: I agree. He is going to help their offense by dictating things for himself and others. Whether that leads to winning 10 straight games, nobody knows that. But absolutely he gives them hope to be in contention come January.

Tom Speicher has been writing "Where Are They Now?" features for Viking Update Magazine for the past five years. He is an occasional contributor to Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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