Commentary

Scouting the NFC's next-gen WRs

Originally Published: November 19, 2010
By Cam Martin | Special to Page 2

The Pregame Flyover welcomes you to Week 11, which began a little early for fans in Chicago and Miami. They now have nine days off until their next game, which should allow plenty of time for their livers and larynxes to recover. If not, just imagine what's going to happen when the NFL goes to an 18-game schedule. And it's going to happen, football fans -- Roger Goodell does not care about your livers and larynxes. They will be sacrificed in the name of profit, so consider yourself warned.

Now before we get to this week's games -- and tell you which games are probably worth watching (a whole lot of 'em), which are of questionable worth, which are of doubtful worth and which game should only be watched if you're related to Brian St. Pierre -- we continue our search for the next generation of skilled, solipsistic wide receivers.

The triumvirate will not always be with us

Last week we discussed the waning careers of Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and Randy Moss, and we wondered who would fill the shoes of such universally beloved entertainers. Who would step up and remind people that the NFL is built on the backs of peacock wide receivers? Who would be willing to draw fines for performing choreographed touchdown celebrations? Who would sacrifice their checkbooks to go on Twitter and tell us which type of gum they're chewing during pregame warm-ups? We don't expect to find three more unicorns like Owens, Moss and Ochocinco. We're realistic. We'll settle for one -- one torchbearer to signal that the old-school ways are not dying out. Last week we looked at the candidacies of Braylon Edwards, Roddy White, Michael Crabtree and Wes Welker, and we were decidedly underwhelmed. This week we continue our search by examining the cases for Brandon Marshall, DeSean Jackson and Dez Bryant. Do any of them possess the requisite combination of skill, showmanship and navel-gazing? Are they worthy of wearing the mantle of Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson and the aforementioned triumvirate? Let's weigh the evidence.

Brandon Marshall

Evidence for: In the rich tradition of Keyshawn Johnson, who was deactivated for the last six games of the 2003 season (but still got paid by the Buccaneers), Marshall was benched by Josh McDaniels for the Broncos' must-win 2009 regular-season finale because the wide receiver was allegedly "indifferent" to making the playoffs. Denver lost that game and missed the postseason, but Marshall was eventually traded to the Dolphins, who made him the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history. And people say that acting like Keyshawn and T.O. can't be rewarding.

Evidence against: Marshall has been far too patient with that quarterback situation in Miami. How's a receiver supposed to earn those Pro Bowl incentives with Tyler Thigpen throwing him the damn ball?

DeSean Jackson

Evidence for: In his short but accomplished career, Jackson has proved to be an outstanding sound bite. Following the Eagles' 59-28 shellacking of the Redskins in Week 10, Jackson said a pregame altercation riled up the team: "It had us ready. We came back into the locker room pumped. We were like pit bulls, ready to get out of the cage." And we all know what that's like, don't we? He really couldn't have drawn a clearer picture. Very Irvin-esque.

Evidence against: As a rookie in 2008, Jackson caught a 60-yard pass against the Cowboys and lost a surefire touchdown by celebrating too early and dropping the ball before crossing the goal line.

Dez Bryant

Evidence for: Bryant, a rookie, has already made quite an impression in Dallas this season. During last week's game against the Giants -- when he caught three balls for 104 yards and a touchdown -- Bryant lost a $50,000 diamond earring he was wearing. A lesser man might have freaked at the disappearance of his ice, but Bryant had a similarly-priced earring in his other ear, so even with his loss he continued to flash more bling than anyone else on the field. Now that's looking out.

Evidence against: During his junior year at Oklahoma State, Bryant was declared ineligible for lying to the NCAA about his relationship with former NFL star Deion Sanders. What? Distancing yourself from Prime Time, the godfather of football showmanship? Disgraceful.

Conclusion: When Moss, Owens and Ochocinco retire, they can take comfort in knowing their old-school ways will carry on. The light might be diffused, but the combined efforts of Braylon Edwards, Brandon Marshall, DeSean Jackson and others should more than compensate for the imbeciles inspirational figures we've encountered in Moss, Owens and Ochocinco.

A Browns fan tackles an 8-year-old Jets fan

People expressed a lot of shock and dismay upon learning an 8-year-old Jets fans was reportedly tackled by a Browns fan after last Sunday's overtime victory by the Jets in Cleveland. But people need to keep something in mind: The Browns have only been in existence since 1999, so their fans have only been exposed to heartbreaking losses for 11 years. As fans, they're basically children themselves, so they're apt to lash out in immature ways. It's not like they've had 40-plus years to get used to this stuff.

C.C. Brown is at peace

Former Giants safety C.C. Brown says taking his talents to New York was a mistake. Brown, whom sportswriter Jeff Pearlman recently named the 90th-worst football player of all time, told the Detroit Free Press: "I mean, bottom line, I should have never took my [butt] to New York. The scheme wasn't right for me. The atmosphere wasn't right for me. I'm not one of those guys that need to be on a big-market team. I need to be on a small, low-key team without all the media attention." Considering that Brown now plays for the Detroit Lions, he seems to have found his niche.

Why isn't Michael Vick up for Time's Person of the Year?

Time's Person of the Year is supposed to be awarded to the person who had the most influence (good or bad) on the happenings of the past year. Given that, LeBron James was obviously worthy of his nomination, as he pulverized the hoop dreams of one city (Cleveland) while buoying those of another (Miami) -- and he did it in such a manner ("The Decision") that people wondered if James should perhaps have the same occupation as George Clooney in "Up in the Air." But if James had such a wide-reaching impact, what can be said of Michael Vick? He's been nothing short of electric as the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles this year, emboldening a star-crossed fan base that cringed when the team traded Donovan McNabb to its bitter divisional rival, the Washington Redskins. The Eagles, who have never won a Super Bowl, are now in first place in the NFC East, thanks largely to Vick, who's been nothing short of a stand-up citizen in 2010. We think. Or so we've heard. At any rate, this isn't Time's Person of the Decade (for which Vick might be decidedly less worthy). This is the award that's supposed to honor the person who has been the most influential over the past 12 months. If that person's not Vick, well, it should obviously be another football player. Brett Favre? Tim Tebow? Plenty of options, really. Just so long as they don't chicken out and give it to me and you again. Seriously, I'll be the first to admit I don't deserve it this year.

Probable, questionable, doubtful and out

Just as the NFL puts out an injury report on the likelihood that certain players will suit up each week (probable, questionable, doubtful or out), we put out a viewing report on the likelihood that games will be worth watching. Because let's face it: You can't watch them all.

"Probable" Games of the Week (75 percent chance these games will be worth watching):

Houston at New York Jets; Oakland at Pittsburgh; Atlanta at St. Louis; Indianapolis at New England; New Giants at Philadelphia.

SPOTLIGHT PROBABLE: Indianapolis at New England.

What to expect from Patriots coach Bill Belichick: Smiles and postgame sound bites; the usual.

What to expect from Colts coach Jim Caldwell: Smiles and postgame sound bites; the usual.

Keep an eye on: Colts players who try to tackle Tom Brady; they'll likely be tased.

Biggest question the Colts need to answer: Should they take their starters out after one series? They have the playoffs to think about, ya know.

Biggest question the Patriots need to answer: Do they covet their opponent's field goal kicker?

Why do these teams play each other every year? It might seem like a league-created rivalry, pitting the league's two best quarterbacks against each other during the regular season every year, but the responsibility actually lies with the Colts and Patriots themselves. Teams that finish in the same position within their respective divisions (and conferences) automatically play each other the following season -- and the Colts and Patriots have mirrored each other in the AFC East and AFC South over the past seven years. This is the same reason we've been treated to the Lions versus the Redskins every year since 2007.

How about some recognition for Tom Brady? The underexposed Patriots quarterback has won his past 24 regular-season home games (one shy of Brett Favre's record), an impressive feat that's been largely overlooked because the Patriots have not won a Super Bowl during this run. His offensive linemen have taken notice, however, and they plan to dump the Gatorade container over Brady's head if the quarterback ties Favre on Sunday. Matt Light promises the container will be loaded with rich, full-body shampoo.


"Questionable" Games of the Week (50 percent chance these games will be worth watching): Cleveland at Jacksonville; Arizona at Kansas City; Washington at Tennessee; Seattle at New Orleans.

SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONABLE: Seattle at New Orleans.

The Seahawks are: In first place in the NFC West.

The Saints are: In second place in the NFC South.

So the Seahawks are obviously the better team. Obviously.

The Saints should be refreshed following: Their bye week

The Seahawks should be refreshed following: Their game against the Cardinals.

This game features former USC coach Pete Carroll and: Former Heisman Trophy owner Reggie Bush.

The player union's counterproposal. The NFL players' association made a good-faith counterproposal to the league's plan to expand the regular season to 18 games. Players requested an additional bye week, fewer practice hours in full pads, and the relocation of Seattle's home games to Oklahoma City, which is more easily accessible to the rest of the league. Sorry, Seattle residents. It's been a good run.


"Doubtful" Games of the Week (25 percent chance these games will be worth watching):

Green Bay at Minnesota; Tampa Bay at San Francisco; Denver at San Diego.

SPOTLIGHT DOUBTFUL: Green Bay at Minnesota.

The Vikings have the worst: Turnover differential (-11) in the NFL.

The Packers have the worst: Team nickname in the NFL (tied with the Browns).

The Vikings' excuse is: Favre turns it over a lot, but the defense doesn't get it back.

The Packers' excuse is: It's tradition, so let's not change it.

The Vikings appear to be a long shot to: Break their tie with the Bills for most Super Bowl losses without a victory (four).

This might be the last chance for Packers fans to see Brett Favre in action: This season.

Vikings coach Brad Childress says it's up to Sidney Rice whether he wants to return to the field this season: Or simply rest up and collect his paycheck. Rice will meet with his adviser, former Steelers kicker Jeff Reed, to discuss strategy.


"Out" Games of the Week (100 percent chance these games will be watched by someone, but hopefully not by you): Baltimore at Carolina; Buffalo at Cincinnati; Detroit at Dallas.

SPOTLIGHT OUT: Buffalo at Cincinnati.

Buffalo is the only team in the AFC: Without a road win this season.

Cincinnati is the only team in the AFC: Without a schedule made easier by playing the Bengals.

This game is a homecoming for Terrell Owens: The most beloved wide receiver in Buffalo Bills history.

The Bengals have the longest: Losing streak in the NFL (six games).

The Bills have the longest: Stretch between playoff appearances in the AFC (last was in 1999).

Believe it or not, these two teams were the class of the AFC 20 years ago: Back when the Pittsburgh Pirates were still in existence.

Cam Martin is a contributor to Page 2. He previously worked for the Greenwich (Conn.) Time and The (Stamford, Conn.) Advocate, and has written online for CBS Sports and Comcast SportsNet New England. You can contact him at cdavidmartin@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: @CameronDMartin.


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