It is absolutely wild how long some of the NFL greats are able to stay relevant in the league.
Outside of the quarterback position, it’s rare to see skill players operating at a high level well into their mid-thirties. But that’s what Canton is for—it’s a place to separate the best from the rest. To see players like Ray Lewis, Charles Woodson, Ronde Barber and London Fletcher still be impact performers is inspiring.
Of the ageless NFL greats with some vitality left is wide receiver Randy Moss.
This offseason, Moss returned from a brief retirement to sign a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers. In a completely new role, the legendary wideout has taken to his new surroundings like a fish to water.
As a situational player, Moss has 13 receptions for 235 yards and two touchdowns in 2012.
The 35-year-old future first-ballot Hall of Famer is averaging a whopping 18.1 yards per catch. Astonishingly enough, 14 seasons deep into his NFL career, Moss has shown that he still brings big play ability each and every week.
Yards After Catch
One of the biggest myths surrounding the illustrious career of Randy Moss is that he is merely a deep threat—that he runs the go route, the fly pattern, the nine route and nothing else.
When in reality, going deep is just his forte. Moss is a threat all over the field, with or without possession of the football.
As an experienced and decorated receiver, Moss understands angles and is highly instinctive. And despite his 6’4" frame, he has the speed and extra gear that really makes him the total package.
He can outrun the coverage on the play, turning nothing into something. Moss has the ability to cut on a dime, effortlessly stopping and accelerating. This kind of physical ability makes him incredibly effective underneath, where he can secure the ball and cut up field.
And with experience and a high football IQ, Moss is able to find lanes and create opportunities for himself. And there are no limitations to what he can do with the ball in his hands.
On several occasions Moss has completely reversed direction, stretching defenses sideline to sideline. He challenges players to make a play on him in an ultra-competitive manner.
At the end of the day, with or without the football, Moss is one of the most elusive players of all time.
The ability to both outleap his opponent and catch in coverage is one of the hallmarks of Randy Moss’ game.
Moss is a predominantly ball-attacking receiver. Over the course of his career, No. 84 has been an aggressive pass-catcher, as someone who would attack the ball at its highest point.
Having been a gifted multi-sport athlete his entire life, Moss has always been self-aware when it comes to his leaping ability. He has never allowed defenders to compete for the football—either outleaping his opponent or shielding him from the football.
When it comes down to it, Moss might be the best jump ball receiver in the history of the game. This is one of the attributes that makes him such an effective red-zone weapon. He is always a threat to come down with the football, and it requires little effort on the quarterback’s part.
He is also incredibly agile and experienced, and over time, he’s learned to work well in small areas. And on top of all of that, he has the sure-handedness play-callers love in a go-to receiver.
San Francisco’s first touchdown of the season was a 14-yard red-zone strike from Alex Smith to Randy Moss.
The On-Field Presence
Like a number of impact performers, Moss is in the elite class that demands the attention of the defense. As long as he’s on the field, defenders will be cautious of the big play and sometimes commit an extra man or two to his area.
His field presence alone is a tremendous benefit for other players and the team as a whole. Moss can spring a big play and he doesn’t even have to be the statistical benefactor. In his 2012 role, No. 84 has helped break open numerous plays for players like Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore.
The mere fact that he can break big plays for other guys is a very unique and valuable asset.
His ability to draw coverage away from the play has been a benefit for San Francisco. Moss has also shown great leadership qualities and a blue-collar mentality. He has been willing to block and be a decoy.
In 2012, Moss has combined great skill with an even better work ethic. And halfway through the season, Moss has had his share of moments, reminding NFL fans he’s still around. In 2012, his top three long plays are for 55, 47 and 20.
Since his signing, the 49ers offense has been generating more big plays as a whole. He’s been able to share his knowledge and still be a one-of-a-kind game-day X-factor.