NFL Fresh Start: New Jersey Colors and Turning the Page on the Past
There are many directions a players career can go when the winds of change blow. On one side of the coin, you have the likes of Randy Moss moving to the Patriots from Oakland following the 2007 season and amassing 1,493 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. The following season and on the other side of the coin you have Roy Williams who was traded in the chilly Detroit winters for the Texas sun and caught 111 passes in four years in what was considered one of the worst trades in NFL history.
Here are a selection of wide receivers trying to replicate a Randy Moss situation and trying their utmost to avoid a catastrophe like the Williams one as they move to different teams in 2015.
2014 Ravens Recap: Rec 49 | 767 Yards | 11 TD
Torrey Smith joins back up with Anquan Boldin having spent two years in Baltimore together in 2011 and 2012. Smith caught 15 touchdowns over that period and will look to benefit from Boldin’s ability to get open underneath in San Francisco.
2014 was a down year in terms of receptions and yards for Smith but he did find the end zone seven more times(11) than he did in 2013 (4). It is no coincidence that Smith’s production declined when Boldin left Baltimore. He is the guy who goes across the middle and causes safeties to cheat and can leave big gaps over the top for Smith in San Fran just like he did during their time in Baltimore.
Another issue is that the NFC West is one of the more competitive divisions in the league. In terms of overall defenses, you don’t get a whole lot better than Seattle. The Rams front seven is set to light up the NFL this season and the Cardinals have Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and are certainly no slouches themselves. They allowed just 22 passing touchdowns in 2014 which was tied for sixth in the league.
Somebody will have to make up for the 68 passes that Michael Crabtree caught in 2014 in San Francisco and with Anquan Boldin a year older at 35, it remains to be seen if Smith can find a balance between being an end zone threat and being an option on shorter passes to give him real fantasy value. Being a home run threat is fun to watch but that deep ball might not happen as often as fantasy owners might like while Smith is in San Francisco.
2014 Bears Recap: Rec 61 | 721 Yards | 8 TDs
Brandon Marshall might just understand that this is his last chance in the NFL. He wore out his welcome in Chicago and was the subject of John Fox’s first order of business in the Windy City. Marshall seems to live with the motto that it is better to burn out than to fade away. He bursts on the scene and slowly but surely burns bridges until he has nowhere left to turn.
Chan Gailey could not make things work in Buffalo in a similar situation to the one he is in now. He did, however, turn Ryan Fitzpatrick into a legitimate passer in the league. Fitzpatrick did not pass for under 3000 yards and 23 touchdowns in the three years that Gailey was the head coach of the Bills.
There is one noticeable difference and that is that Gailey never had a receiver like Marshall. He also never had the luxury of a player like Decker or rookie Devin Smith opposite him with Jace Amaro, another option, at tight end. As stated, Marshall tends to start well in new environments during the honeymoon period.
Gone Smith was a success in college in a spread offense and Gailey will look to implement this style in New York and with Fitzpatrick lighting a fire under Smith, it might be time for the third year quarterback to become the player the Jets thought they were drafting in the second round of the 2013 draft.
Marshall can still grab 100 balls a year as long as he gets the targets and the chemistry is right with him and his quarterback. The honeymoon period is well and truly under way in New York and Marshall looks set to prove his worth working, and apparently, living with Geno Smith. Trust in Marshall for this year anyway.
Eagles 2014 Recap: 86 Rec | 1,329 Yards | 10 Tds
Jeremy Maclin gambled on himself last season and could not have made a better decision. It was his first 10 touchdown, 1,000 yard season since he entered the league and he also caught 85 balls, which was 15 more than he had caught in any year previous.
He has had to contend with spotty quarterback play since he entered the league in Nick Foles, Vince Young and Mark Sanchez and he will travel to a similar environment in Kansas City but with no competition at the wide receiver position, Maclin is sure to see plenty of targets.
He can be a better version of Dwayne Bowe, who had years of success in Kansas City. It doesn’t help that Kansas City has the highest rate of offensive turnover in the league, however, and have overhauled the offensive line with four new starters. They have overhauled the tight end group and wide receiving following a poor year for both groups last year.
Being a number one wide receiver in Kansas City doesn’t necessarily mean regular 1,000 yard seasons and Bowe went three years as the number one guy without one. Alex Smith did not throw a touchdown to a wide receiver in 2014 and, if to just avoid the embarrassment that it brings, the Chiefs will scheme to prevent this from happening again and expect Maclin to be the guy that benefits.
49ers 2014 Recap: 68 Rec | 698 Yards | 4 TDs
Michael Crabtree caught 68 passes last year but never really solidified himself as a pass catching machine in San Francisco for a sustained period of time with a barrage of injuries to blame for such inconsistency.
If Chicago is, as they say, where wide receivers go to die then Oakland is where they go to be hyped and then forgotten about soon after due to poor coaching and a myriad of other problems. It is quite possible that Crabtree gets lost in all the noise that Amari Cooper and the emerging talent of Andre Holmes are making.
If Crabtree can prove his health following an achilles tear in 2013 that he has never really bounced back from, he can be a major factor in the Raiders’ passing game. In David Carr’s second year in the league, he will be looking for guys he can trust on a weekly basis. If Crabtree’s injury history leads to him missing time then Carr will look elsewhere with the ball. On the flip side, if Crabtree can gain Carr’s trust, he can be the guy who catches most passes this year as Amari Cooper settles into the league.
Texans 2014 Recap: 85 Rec | 936 Yards | 3 TDs
Some believe it is all a little too late for Johnson to make a move to a Super Bowl contender but with Andrew Luck under center, anything is possible for this group of wide receivers.
What it will ultimately come down to is how badly Johnson has declined. 2014 was a down year for Johnson as his run of five 1,000 yard seasons came to an end but with Case Keenum throwing the ball his direction, you can’t judge anything by that.
Andrea Luck threw 40 touchdowns last year and looks set to do the same again. For as good as Reggie Wayne once was, he was 35 last season and Hakeem Nicks never took off in the Colts offense. Andre Johnson could be the recipient of a large chunk of those 40+ touchdowns that Luck throw next season.
He is now in an Indianapolis Colts dressing room with an array of offensive talent. The wide receiving core is stacked with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, Griff Whalen and Duron Carter.
Hilton is a superstar in the making and Johnson can be the beneficiary of running back Frank Gore opening up the passing game. Gore has rushed for 1,000 yards in eight of his 10 seasons in the league. Expect plenty of firepower from this offense and you can expect Johnson to make one last push for a Super Bowl ring with All-Pro numbers.