AFC South: Moss claimed by Titans

Just how much can the addition of Randy Moss help Chris Johnson and the Titans’ running game?

The Titans provided some pre-bye week quotes Thursday when they had a closed practice and no media availability. And almost all of them mentioned it.

A sampling:

Chris Johnson
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelChris Johnson hopes the addition of Randy Moss will mean fewer defenders focusing on him.
Johnson: "That’s a guy we grew up watching. We named jump balls after him. When somebody goes up and gets one, it’s named after him. We call it ‘getting a Moss.’ So I’m very excited about the situation, to play with a guy like that, and I’m very excited that he’ll back some of those guys out of the box. I know for a fact they can’t put all those guys in the box with that guy out there."

Left tackle Michael Roos: "I think it’s going to be great to have Randy here, a player of his caliber, expertise and experience. It should definitely help our offense, especially in the running game, being able to take away some extra guys in the box from C.J."

Free safety Michael Griffin: "You are going to have to keep a safety over and one-on-one with him. You just hope that he comes in and can help this team out and we can continue to move forward."

ESPN Stats & Info’s Next Level research says Johnson’s been super-effective out of three-wide formations this season, but that there have not been too many of those plays.

  • With two or fewer wide receivers on the field, Johnson has 155 carries for an average of 3.9 yards a rush and seven touchdowns.
  • With three or more wide receivers on the field, Johnson has 23 carries for an average of 5.3 yards and one touchdown.

With Moss in and Kenny Britt (hamstring) out, the Titans can still go three-wide with Moss, Nate Washington and one of three slot options -- Justin Gage, if they want to go back to the old, or Damian Williams or Lavelle Hawkins if they want to stick with the new.

I’d love to see them line up with Moss, Washington and Williams to spread the field on a larger share of plays when they intend to hand it to Johnson.

I'd also like to see them throw it to Johnson more. He's second on the team with 22 catches, but only has 90 yards. That's a 4.1-yard average as compared to a 10.1-yard receiving average a year ago.

One AFC personnel man told me this is an area in which Moss can really have an influence.

"When we played them last year, they would get the receivers down the field and then let Chris check-release," he said. "If your defense has guys over the top of Moss, that takes a guy out of the box. So now all off a sudden if you're operating under the same principles and this guy is stretching the field, the check down is much more isolated and he gets the ball in space.

"And if you're running the sprint draw, taking your guys and running them down the field, you set up the throw and then you offset the back and hand it to him on the draw. They've had success with that. And now when you've got a vertical threat like Moss it affects the defense."

Johnson’s presence can certainly also help Moss.

Vince Young has been great overall this season with play-action passes (thank you CJ) with a 151.2 passer rating on just 29 attempts.

But since 2008, Titans wide receivers have only two more catches out of play-action that Randy Moss has by himself in the same span:

  • Moss has 43 catches for 862 yards and eight touchdowns on balls that average 20.9 yards in the air.
  • Titans wide receivers have 45 catches for 878 yards and four touchdowns on balls that average 17.1 in the air.

RTC: Randy Moss edition

November, 4, 2010
Reading the coverage...

The Titans surprised the league and fans by claiming Randy Moss, says Jim Wyatt.

A lot of people think Jeff Fisher is just the right coach for Moss, says John Glennon.

David Climer looks at the pros and cons.

Joe Biddle wonders if Moss is the boost needed for a Super Bowl run or a recipe for disaster.

Mike Reinfeldt said on Titans Radio that Bud Adams was on board.

Three reasons the Titans made the move, from Don Banks.

The Titans think Moss can put them over the top, says Thomas George.

Alex Marvez rates Moss as the NFL’s biggest baby.

Mike Keith on the Moss move. (Audio.)

Moss is not an even-up trade for the injured Kenny Britt, says Bill Barnwell (Insider).

Players got their wish. (Video.)

It’s a brassy move, says Bob McClellan.

This time, the timing was right, says David Boclair.

Vikings receivers had a lot of praise for Moss.

Other reactions to the move.

Britt could be out six to eight weeks, says Terry McCormick.
Thoughts on Randy Moss as a member of the Tennessee Titans from Showtime’s Inside the NFL, with some of my thoughts interspersed:

Phil Simms: “I think it’s a good move. You think about the teams, there is nowhere for him to go. I thought it was a good pick-up by the Tennessee Titans. They lost Kenny Britt. They run the football and when they throw it, they throw it down the field. Just what I know, my son played at Tennessee, if there is a coach out there that can handle Randy Moss, Jeff Fisher knows how to handle players. He does it very well. That’s the reason why he’s been there so long.”

PK: A lot of national analysts are going with the Fisher-handles-players stance. I understand it. And Moss is not Pacman Jones. But Fisher didn’t handle Pacman Jones well. He signed off on it with an “I-can-handle-him” bravado, then in a lot of ways he babied Jones and enabled him. Now Moss isn’t getting arrested like Jones was, but the two players do share an issue as locker room distractions. The Titans aren’t too far removed from dealing with that and here’s “I-can-handle-him” again. We’ll see.

Cris Collinsworth: “Kenny Britt is out so it does makes some sense from that standpoint. And it’s a team once again with a tremendous running back in Chris Johnson. Just like they had [in Minnesota] with Adrian Peterson. So there are a lot of things that make sense here. I still wouldn’t do it. I have seen enough. The press conferences, he seems to be disruptive within the locker room. I don’t see the talent and the effort on the game tapes. I’ve called one and I’ve been studying the tapes. I just don’t see it. I am an effort guy. I think that football teams are built around great effort and people looking at each other in the eye and saying, ‘This guy is giving me everything he’s got.’ And it’s just not him. And I wouldn’t do it.”

PK: And the focus for offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger now turns into, “how can we get that effort.” And if things don’t go well early, what’s different here that keeps Moss from doing the things he’s done in two other places recently that helped contribute to him being sent away?

Simms: “Minnesota wasn’t designed for Randy Moss...It’s the West Coast offense. Brett Favre only knows how to go to this guy, this guy and that guy. Because he’s been doing the same offense his whole career. You look at the Tennessee Titans. Randy Moss, you don’t have to worry about the route running. It is raise it up, it is down the field. That is what it is. Look at how they played against the San Diego Chargers. When they throw it, the Tennessee Titans now, they have found the formula. Throw it deep down the field. And Randy Moss, he can go get it.”

Collinsworth: "I think it’s a great question, whether or not he is going to be into it. What I saw in Minnesota I thought….this guy is a Hall of Fame player. He is one of the greatest players that have ever been in the position. But you have to be passionate about the game. And he’s going to Tennessee and is he going to be willing to run those slants on occasion, to run a couple of in-cuts, to do something to draw some coverage away from just the deep ball? I don’t think he has the physical skills now to just line-up in one route and just go down the field. Maybe he still can. I don’t think so though."

PK: This is at the heart of the will-it or won’t it work debate. No, Tennessee’s system isn’t as dictatorial to receivers as the West Coast offense, so Moss won’t be confined by the system in Tennessee. Vince Young gets good protection and throws a nice deep ball. Still, if all he wants is streak down the field on snaps when he thinks it’s heading to him, that’s a problem too. And a quick pass to him to get the ball in his hands quickly after the snap, that’s not something Young throws well.

Michael Lombardi: "The other reality is that Randy Moss has to be a free agent at the end of the year. They will be awarded Minnesota’s contract, which says the franchise tag cannot be placed on him. So therefore, he’ll enter free agency, assuming we have a free-agency period. And Tennessee not only gets a vertical threat, they could get a compensatory pick next offseason if Randy Moss signs a big contract with someone else. So it’s a smart play for Tennessee because of where they are, Kenny Britt’s injury and the style of team."

PK: There is certainly a something-for-nothing-element here. If Moss is a quick miss, the Titans didn’t give up a third-round pick for him, they could cut him and move right along and not get crushed for it or have suffered much for it and be able to say they tried. If it goes reasonably well or great, then they’ve got eight games plus a possible playoff appearance with him. Then they’d likely be unwilling to meet his price and would happily collect that compensatory pick in 2012 -- provided the compensatory pick element of the CBA exists as part of a new labor agreement.
My first question about Randy Moss as a Titan was: Will Jeff Fisher be able to handle him?

My second is: How long does Moss last with his fourth team in his fifth fresh start?

The presumption when he got (back) to Minnesota was he’d fall in line for a good while, give things a chance to work as he restored his name and to make the people who stuck their necks out for him, Brad Childress and Brett Favre, look good.

He lasted all of four games before Childress made the decision to concede a mistake and classified Moss as “a programmatic non-fit.”

The Titans have a far more functional organization right now than the Vikings do. Moss should fare better in a setting with a more established coach and a franchise that, having sacrificed nothing to get him, could cut him quickly with little backlash if it’s clear things won’t work.

Still, an egg timer gets flipped here.

How long does Moss give the Titans to feed him the way he needs to eat -- both on the field, and at the team buffet?

They have a bye this week and play at Miami on Nov. 14 before hosting Washington on Nov. 21 and then playing three in a row in the AFC South at Houston and against Jacksonville and Indianapolis.

If offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and quarterback Vince Young can’t get the ball to Moss against the Dolphins or the Redskins, does the receiver remain eager to work for them against the Texans?

If Chris Johnson breaks a cut-back run, will Moss be downfield blocking as the Titans expect their receivers to do, or will he have taken a play off and actually cost the offense potential yards?

Will he be in the locker room after those games to answer questions about any issues like every guy on Fisher’s team is after every game? Or will all those other guys be left to talk about him?

To ensure the Titans don’t have to race against that egg timer, Heimerdinger would be wise to draw up a very determined game plan for the Dolphins game. I don’t think dictating double-teams for Moss and then taking what Miami’s defense is willing to give will suffice.

To get things moving in the right direction as quickly as possible, I’d force-feed.

Quick screens, medium crosses, red zone fades, deep balls, jump balls. Force the issue and Moss is a lot more likely to get on board and stay on board. Show the organization's traditional patience, and hold your breath.

An egg timer and an hourglass are the same thing on a different scale.

Think about sands through the hourglass, and you know what soap opera follows.

Titans' brief comments on Randy Moss

November, 3, 2010
The Titans just sent out a news release with brief comments on the waiver claim of Randy Moss.

General manager Mike Reinfeldt: “We are always looking for ways to improve our roster. Randy is obviously a Hall of Fame player and has the ability to be a difference-maker for our offense.”

Head coach Jeff Fisher: “We had an opportunity to upgrade our offense, and Randy has been a tremendous threat wherever he has been. We will bring him up to speed as quickly as possible.”
Moss/FisherUS PresswireIf Jeff Fisher can handle Randy Moss, the veteran receiver could help Tennessee make a playoff run.
The Tennessee Titans passed on Randy Moss in the 1998 draft (when they were the Tennessee Oilers), choosing Kevin Dyson at No. 16 instead.

Twelve years later, the Titans have been awarded Moss based on their waiver claim, according to Adam Schefter. They were 22nd in line based on the current standings, and no one ahead of Tennessee made a move for the receiver who was just released by the Vikings.

The move could mean the Titans aren’t comfortable waiting on Kenny Britt, who’s out for what Jeff Fisher said will be “an extended period of time” after suffering a hamstring injury Sunday in a loss at San Diego.

I was part of the group that talked to Jeff Fisher after the Titans’ bye week practice Wednesday and he was evasive about Moss, talking about how he doesn’t get into hypotheticals but conceded the obvious about 1998.

“Our personnel department decided that Kevin Dyson was a better fit,” he said. “Randy has had a terrific career. He’s a Hall of Fame receiver. You don’t always make the right decision. The draft is an imperfect science. We’ve had No. 1s that haven’t panned out for us before.”

Early in the day Fisher did consider hypotheticals on the “Dan Patrick Show,” and said part of a Moss arrival would be accompanied with a clear conversation about how the Titans' locker room works and the expectations for him to fit into it.

Titans backup quarterback Kerry Collins, who played for one year with Moss in Oakland, said before the claim came to light that he thought Moss would be a big addition.

“I never had a problem with the guy -- he was professional, respectful, he was a team guy,” Collins said. “I think a lot of the stuff that you see and hear gets overblown. The guy speaks his mind. He’s very truthful with what he says and that doesn’t always play well. He was a great teammate, and I never had a problem with him.”

The personnel department clearly decided that Moss can help and Fisher and offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger surely believe that Moss can help in the big-play department by getting open for deep stuff from Vince Young and, in turn, backing people off Chris Johnson.

I suspect a ticking clock also helped sell the move to one very important person.

Owner Bud Adams had to sign off on the claim, and I imagine he bought the idea that a best-case scenario with Moss could be a Super Bowl run.

Adams is 87 years old and has talked about how he wouldn’t be around much longer and would love for the Titans to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl before he’s gone.

If Jeff Fisher can handle Moss, maybe he does provide that boost. If he can’t, maybe a team with a reasonably good shot at the playoffs halfway through the season gets thrown off course by a giant distraction.

The Titans don't have another media availability scheduled until next week to discuss it. Bye week or not, it's likely Fisher will emerge a lot sooner than that now.