Denarius Moore, Raiders: 12 catches, 199 yards, 2 TDs, one rushing touchdown
Stop me if you heard this one before, but the Raiders have a young wide receiver with blazing speed that they like to throw bombs to.
OK, well here’s the new wrinkle: this one is pretty good. Moore, unlike the Darrius Heyward-Bey types that came through the system before him and still line up next to him, can catch the ball, has some lateral quickness to go with his track speed, and can actually run some pretty good routes besides the Official Route of Raiders Football (read: straight).
The average pass to Moore travels 19.1 yards in the air. Factor in the occasional screens he runs, and there have been a lot of 30-60 yard throws to Moore this year. Seven of them, to be exact. Catches of 50 and 42 yards, a short touchdown against the Patriots, and an exciting end-around touchdown against the Jets have made the highlight reels, but Moore has also drawn two long pass interference penalties, and all of those fly routes keep safeties deep so the Raiders can pursue their other passion — pounding Darren McFadden off tackle.
Moore may never develop into an all-around receiving threat like Jones, but he is a Raider, so no one will ask him to.
Randall Cobb, Packers: 7 catches, 148 yards, 1 TD, one kickoff return touchdown
Who said we had to follow the league-leader list? Titus Young, Doug Baldwin, Greg Little, and Dane Sanzenbacher have all caught more passes than Cobb, and Torrey Smith has more yards and touchdowns. All of them have shown flashes of excellence, particularly Young, who does some of the things for the Lions that Jones does for the Falcons. But all of Smith’s production came in one game, little averages just 9.4 yards per game, Baldwin plays for a Seahawks team that completes most of its passes in garbage time, and I don’t want to keep spelling the other guy’s name.
But seriously, Cobb has the potential to have a much bigger impact than any of those other players, even if his numbers do not show it yet. Cobb is the tipping point player in the league’s best offense. When he takes the field with all of those other great receivers, stopping the Packers goes from “hard” to “completely impossible.”
So how do you defend this personnel grouping? The Broncos keep their safeties 12 and 15 yards deep, dropped everyone into zones, and cross their fingers. A fake handoff freezes the linebackers for a split second, but really, no linebacker has a chance to cover Cobb in the open field, even without the fake. Safety Rahim Moore takes a bad angle, underestimating Cobb’s speed, and this simple play design turns into a 61-yard completion.
As the season wears on, Cobb’s most important contribution to the Packers will be on special teams, and not just because he has the potential to rip off another 108-yard kickoff return touchdowns. Last year, the Packers pressed Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams and other important starters into return duties. With Cobb handling them, and handling them well, the Packers starters don’t have to risk injury doing double duty. So Cobb can be one of the most valuable receivers in the league, even without the 61-yard catches.
Mike Tanier writes for NBCSports.com and Rotoworld.com and is a senior writer for Football Outsiders.
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