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Taking issue with T.O.'s alleged 'ball skills'

3/7/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
I was reading the AFC East Blog on Saturday evening (the usual routine) when I ran across some analysis from Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. The NFC Beast has been a fan of Williamson's work for years, but we had to take issue with something he said about T.O.

 Owens

"Even though Terrell Owens is slipping, he can still go get it. That guy's a touchdown machine," says Williamson. "He can beat you at all levels, but more than anything is he can go into tight corners. He's physical and his ball skills are great."

It's the last sentence that really caught my attention. It's true that T.O.'s physique suggests that he would be a physical receiver, but I've rarely seen it actually happen on the field. He has trouble getting a clean release off the line of scrimmage -- as Williamson pointed out -- but then he also struggles with competing for balls in traffic. He's devastating if you can get the ball to him on a slant or simply let him utilize his speed on a post route. But he rarely wins on jump balls. And I've always thought ball skills meant that a guy did a great job of adjusting to make a play in traffic. It also suggests to me that a player catches the ball cleanly with his hands.

I don't think T.O. does either of those things well. He's someone who will make a lot of big plays, but Bills fans should prepare themselves for several three-catch, 38-yard afternoons. He accounted for more than 400 of his yards this season in wins over the Eagles and 49ers. In pretty much every other game, he put up pedestrian numbers.

T.O. rarely makes clutch catches to win football games. In some ways, he's the A-Rod of the NFL. At the end of the season, his stats will look pretty solid. But then you realize he didn't help you win any big games. The Cowboys didn't win a playoff game in T.O.'s three years. You can't pin it all on him, but then, alleged superstars are supposed to will you to victories.