June 18, 2012

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Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, & Chad Ochocinco on the Comeback Trail

By: Anson Whaley

As recently as two years ago, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Chad Ochocinco were three of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL. Each was a few years past his respective prime, but still able to contribute heavily. The trio combined for more than 2,200 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010, and the group was still a potent bunch.

Two years later, though, and it’s a different story.

Moss didn’t play last season and after a brief retirement, signed with the San Francisco 49ers for 2012. Moss may be the biggest question mark as he had the worst numbers of the three players in 2010. He failed to make big splashes with any of the three (yes, three) teams for which he played. Moss had brief stints with the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, and Tennessee Titans, but had a hard time fitting in with any of them, even though he previously had done well with the Patriots.

Alex Smith

The San Francisco 49ers and Alex Smith are hoping Randy Moss can help improve their passing attack.

An offseason injury in 2011 forced Terrell Owens to the sideline. He was deemed ready to play by his agent and even held a televised workout in October, but no NFL teams attended. With no other options, Owens suited up for the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League, playing there earlier this year, but has since been released.

After a solid 2010, Chad Ochocinco dropped off in a big way last season. Playing for the New England Patriots, he never fully grasped the system and simply wasn’t a good fit. He had the worst season of his career with only 276 receiving yards and a single touchdown.

Even though all three have question marks, each is headed in different directions as I see it.

Of the three, Owens’ career may be the one most in danger. The fact that his workout in 2011 drew no NFL interest shows exactly where he stands in terms of league appeal. And while he had a productive 2010 playing alongside Ochocinco in Cincinnati, he wasn’t able to dominate the Indoor Football League this past season. Owens played in only eight games, so it’s not fair to judge him based on total numbers. But his per game average of 52.9 yards a game wasn’t even in the league’s top 20 and he was merely a good, not great, wideout. For a player trying to get back to the NFL, it isn’t terribly impressive that he wasn’t even among the best receivers in an indoor league. It’s a different brand of football, but Owens’ skill should still translate into better numbers.

Moss, on the other hand, will have an immediate opportunity. He’s headed to a 49ers team that is in desperate need of an upgraded passing attack. Alex Smith has become a serviceable quarterback, but will have a chance to get even better if Moss is in shape. Even in his older age, Moss has a chance to become a top target in San Fran. Still, it’s hard to put his dismal 2010 out of mind. When you think about his inability to fit with any of the three teams for which he played, it’s pretty unsettling. The bottom line is that while he’s getting yet another shot, there’s no guarantee Moss will work out.

Ochocinco recently signed with the Miami Dolphins and may have the best chance to revive his career simply because he’s the youngest. At only 34, there’s still plenty of time for him to be effective. His numbers were incredibly low last season, but there’s good reason to think that his year was a bit of an anomaly. Playing in New England as a wide receiver is a bit different than many places. The Patriots emphasize finding the open man rather than looking for specific targets – it’s one of the reasons why unknowns can produce big seasons there. The other thing to like about Ochocinco is that even while playing alongside Owens in 2010, he still racked up over 800 yards receiving and caught nearly 70 passes. Playing in Miami, he’ll become one of the focal points of the passing game since the Dolphins allowed their No. 1 receiver, Brandon Marshall, to go to the Chicago Bears. Ochocinco will be the star in Miami and could even be in line for a 1,000-yard season if he’s still healthy. If you need another reason for his potential success, look no further than the Dolphins’ potent rushing game, which was 11th in the NFL. That should free up the passing game a bit and give Ochocinco an even bigger chance for success.

If anything slows him down this year, it will be the quarterback situation. The Dolphins selected Ryan Tannehill in the first round and could be forced to play him early on. That could prevent Ochocinco from having a huge season if Tannehill has some growing pains, but Miami also has veterans David Garrard and Matt Moore in place. Neither is great, but both are capable NFL quarterbacks.

All three have a chance to become impact receivers again, but my bet is on Ochocinco to do the most with the remainder of his career.

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