Two years ago, this could have been an Onion post. For a better headline, we would have gone with something like “Coaches have day-long June meeting, decide giving Randy Moss the ball often is a good idea.”
Despite the consistently glowing reports from the 49ers offseason practices that describe a changed man whose attitude and laziness isn’t obstructing his talent, seeing other reports saying that Moss’ return to football has been so successful that he’ll likely be one of the two starters in San Francisco is still a little jarring.
That’s the Bay Area gospel according to Matt Maiocco, who writes that Michael Crabtree will remain atop the Niners’ wide receiver depth chart, followed closely by Moss.
Moss declined all interview requests during the 49ers’ offseason. Instead, he let others do the talking for him. And, without fail, every teammate and coach had glowing praise for the 14-year veteran. The offseason could not have gone any better for Moss.
On the field, he used his long strides and 6-foot-4 height to get deep and make catches against sometimes unsuspecting defensive backs. Moss’ skills should make it easy for Alex Smith. Moss is at his best on under-thrown deep balls in which he can go up and catch the pass above defenders. The biggest question about Moss is how he will deal with adversity. Thus far, it’s all been smooth sailing.
Yes, it’s mid June, a time when the depth charts of nearly every position on nearly every team are very much in a state of transition, and they don’t even begin the process of being solidified until after the first few preseason games in August. But the fact that Jim Harbaugh is even considering putting Moss in a situation where he’s one injury away from being the top receiver in a meaningful game is both intriguing, and maybe a little concerning.
We’d love to watch Moss explode downfield again and show even glimpses of his old self from his 2009 season with the Patriots when he had 1,264 receiving yards on 15.2 yards per reception, and 13 touchdowns. The thought alone leads to some serious salivating, but if this depth chart is maintained throughout training camp, San Fran may be falling too hard for Moss’ sex appeal in summer shorts.
Figuratively. Dear god, figuratively.
You don’t need this reminder, but here it is anyway. Moss was out of football for a year, and the last time he played two teams thought he was awful enough to warrant the waiver wire treatment during the season. He had only 393 yards on 28 receptions, and there were three games in which he didn’t register a single catch.
Crabtree has had a rare healthy offseason, and as Maiocco notes, this is his first offseason without a lingering injury. Although he’s coming off of his most productive season (874 yards), health is still concerning for the 24-year-old. If he goes down, Moss faces increased pressure immediately, a role that’s perhaps better suited for Mario Manningham, the free agent acquisition whose numbers dipped last year due to an injury, but he flirted with a 1,000-yard season (944) two years ago with the Giants.
When the 49ers signed Moss, the 35-year-old was initially viewed as a wild card, and a likely depth player who could contribute with his speed and explosiveness when put in the right situations. Now he could be much more than that, so if this depth chart holds Harbaugh is assuming that Moss’ head stays aligned in the proper direction, and the athleticism of an aging wideout doesn’t fade over a long season.
With Moss, we’ve learned that both of those assumptions are risky at best.