Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Sharp Intake of Air


I guess we could minimize this by talking about Randy Moss: Underachiever (who doesn’t exist), or Randy Moss: Team Destroyer (who only existed questionably 5-6 years ago), but why do that when we’re staring down the barrel of what could be one of the most explosive offenses to ever play the game? I’m mad as hell that Kenny Britt might be out for an extended period, because this offense was ready to go Earth Wind & Fire in a way no offense has since…well, since the 2007 Browns almost conned us into thinking that Cleveland was back. Moss give the Titans the one thing that they have never had: A legitimate deep threat who commands attention and preparation. Throw in Nate Washington as the Donte Stallworth type (yes, that man’s career is now a synonym for “guy you can’t really ignore, but you can pretty much ignore”), and this pass game already looks funky. If Britt returns at full strength (the right word for how his game is measured), teams will have to decide between Moss leaving their corners in his wake, or Britt manhandling corners that want no part of a 6’3” 215 pound bull of a receiver, because emptying out the box is not an option.

Yes, people are saying that it’s Chris Johnson who benefits most from this deal, and honestly it’s hard not to agree. Johnson remains one of maybe two (if AP is having a good day) backs who you have to watch when he touches the ball, because something remarkable can always happen. He reverses direction on a dime, and hits full speed in time bested only by the likes of Steve Smith. Furthermore, he’s not soft; he’s gotten a rep as a small back, but he plays tougher than his speed would lead you to believe. Now, he gets to use all of those natural gifts against defenses that are worrying about what the pass attack can do to them if they let them out over the top. The result, if we’re all really, really lucky, is going to be Chris Johnson getting out of the defensive front and into a whole lot of open space to hit top speed. This isn’t even a case of a player’s talents being freed; Johnson has more than proven that he’s an elite talent, and has put up results to indicate as much. That’s what makes this fascinating, though, as the implication is that this could allow him to play at a level we haven’t even seen yet.

I had hoped that the Texans would put together something along these lines, but there’s still something tragically wrong with that team (in their fear of Peyton Manning, they’ve neglected the importance of corners to cover his receivers, or an offensive line to protect their own quarterback). These Titans, however, have to become a favorite to win the AFC South, unless you think that the Colts are going to survive all of these injuries unscathed. Personally, I’m excited for what this means for Vince Young, who finally has the sort of talent that can play into his strengths as an improviser when plays break down. Imagine a pass play breaking down, resulting in a standard VY scramble, which is still good to buy a solid 2-3 seconds of time. You’re now faced with two distinct questions. First, what can Chris Johnson do with the sort of space backs tend to get when a pass play falls apart and a scramble ensues? We’ve covered this above, but it merits repeating: Chris Johnson is going to kill defenses that are forced to spread the field. Second, if Young breaks away for an extra 2-3 seconds, who is going to cover Moss for 5+ seconds? Young can hurl the ball, and there may be one or two other receivers (Megatron and, if healthy, Andre Johnson) who can handle a jump ball pass as well as Moss. Can anybody really cover this defense?

That’s the coolest part about this whole experiment. Yes, Moss could go evil and ruin it all, but what’s the harm of that if you’re the Titans? If this works, though, we’re looking at an offense that plays with unprecedented athleticism (and, in most cases, talent) at every level (I’m including VY here for the athleticism, if not the proven talent yet). Plays don’t break down as much as they morph into new plays on the strength of the uniqueness of the players involve. It’s the Venus effect: Beautiful in its design, but potentially more beautiful because things fall apart.

Yeah, I’m kind of excited about this whole thing.

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