Commentary

Randy Moss finally gets strong backing

Wide receiver should reap benefits of playing with All-Pro RB Peterson

Originally Published: October 8, 2010
By Adam Schefter | ESPN.com

Once the New England Patriots made the decision to trade wide receiver Randy Moss, the Minnesota Vikings found themselves with the NFL version of the Miami Heat.

Minnesota now has one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play in Brett Favre, one of the greatest wide receivers ever to play in Moss, and a running back in Adrian Peterson who has the chance to make the kind of impact at his position that his teammates have at theirs -- all on the same offense.

It also reveals an advantage Moss will have in Minnesota that he lacked on his journey through Oakland and New England. Now he will be teamed with the best running back he has played with since Robert Smith from 1998 to 2000.

Moss has put up Hall of Fame statistics despite playing on a team with a 1,000-yard rusher only five times in his first 12 seasons -- Smith in 1998-2000, the Vikings' Michael Bennett in 2002 and the Raiders' LaMont Jordan in 2005. The rushing leaders on Moss' teams those other years? The Vikings' Bennett (682 in 2001), Moe Williams (745 in 2003) and Onterrio Smith (544 in 2004), the Raiders' Justin Fargas (659 in 2006), and the Patriots' Laurence Maroney (835 in 2007 and 757 in 2009) and Sammy Morris (727 in 2008). It's not exactly a murderers' row of running backs.

Moss had three of the most productive seasons of his career while teamed with Smith. But in Peterson, Moss will be matched with a running back unlike any other he has played with.

Teams will have to crowd the line. They will have to bring eight men into the box. They will have to account for Peterson at all times.

Favre already has learned the benefits of playing with Peterson. Now Moss is about to do the same. Now on to this week's (Moss) 10 Spot:

Moss has a new home in Minnesota. But the home he is most familiar with this season actually is the New Meadowlands Stadium. When Moss plays there Monday night against the New York Jets, it will mark his third game there this year. Moss played there in the preseason against the New York Giants and in New England's first road game against the Jets. While Moss will be playing his third game there, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has played less than six quarters there -- four against the Baltimore Ravens, almost two against New England. So the Jets' home field has been as much Moss' home field as anyone's.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesThe Cowboys paid a princely sum to acquire Roy E. Williams.

Rarely has the league seen so many high-profile wide receivers traded in such a short period. Moss was traded to Minnesota for a third-round pick in 2011 while the Vikings get back a seventh-round pick in 2012. Santonio Holmes, who also will be making his debut Monday night against Moss and the Vikings, went to New York from Pittsburgh for a fifth-round pick. Brandon Marshall was shipped to Miami from Denver for two-second round picks. And Anquan Boldin went from Arizona to Baltimore for third- and fourth-round picks while the Cardinals got back a fifth-round pick. This shines a light on Dallas, which surrendered three first-round picks for two wide receivers over the past decade. The Cowboys traded two first-round picks to Seattle for wide receiver Joey Galloway in 2000, then traded first-, third- and sixth-round draft choices to Detroit for wide receiver Roy E. Williams in 2008. Neither of those trades seemed effective. They look even less so compared with some of the recent wide receiver trades.

The NFL wants to go to 18 games. But now we'll get to see how someone might fare in 17. New England is entering its bye, Minnesota is returning from its bye, and so Moss now has a chance to become the sixth player since the bye was instituted in 1990 to play in 17 regular-season games. The five who have played 17: Chris Singleton, Patriots and Dolphins, 1993; Dexter Carter, Jets and 49ers, 1995; Jerry Rice, Raiders and Seahawks, 2004; Micah Ross, Chargers and Panthers, 2004; and Will Witherspoon, Rams and Eagles, 2009.

As star-studded as the Vikings are, they could have been even more so had free-agent running back LaDainian Tomlinson opted to sign with Minnesota rather than the Jets. Tomlinson said this week that his wife did not want him to go to Minnesota, and that cannot be overlooked. The Vikings and Jets both thought, and maybe even expected, that Tomlinson ultimately would choose Minnesota over New York. But Tomlinson felt comfortable with Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's system, which he knew from their time together in San Diego. He listened to his wife. He opted for the Jets. And his decision was right. Tomlinson has turned back the clock and looked tremendous. Now imagine a roster that would have included Tomlinson, Favre, Moss and Peterson.

Tomlinson's former team, the San Diego Chargers, cannot be ruled out as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. After four weeks, San Diego is No. 1 in the NFL in total offense and total defense. It is early, but those are impressive stats. Since 1970, only five other teams have led the league in offense and defense after Week 4 or later -- and two of them won the Super Bowl. The undefeated 1972 Dolphins led the league in offense and defense after Week 4, as did the 1977 Dallas Cowboys. The 1973 Rams, 1982 Jets and 1987 49ers also led the league in offense and defense after four weeks. So for as much talent as San Diego has had in the past, it might have more now. And with Marcus McNeill getting ready to return Oct. 17 at St. Louis, this Chargers team should only get better.

[+] EnlargeMax Hall
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesNew Cardinals QB Max Hall faces long odds in his starting debut.

They cut Matt Leinart and benched Derek Anderson. Now the Arizona Cardinals are turning to 25-year-old rookie quarterback Max Hall, an undrafted free agent, to save their season. But what the Cardinals have seen from Hall, the nephew of former Cowboys quarterback Danny White, would surprise many. They believe he has the potential to be the next undrafted free-agent quarterback success story, another player who comes from nowhere and goes to the Pro Bowl, like Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia and Tony Romo. The coaching staff is a proponent of Hall, the players are behind him, but history is not. Rookie quarterbacks making their first NFL start have not fared well recently. Last season, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman each won his first NFL start. But since then, three rookie quarterbacks -- St. Louis' Keith Null, St. Louis' Sam Bradford and Carolina's Jimmy Clausen -- have lost their first career start. Hall is excited -- but so is Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

At this time a year ago, the St. Louis Rams had been outscored 108-24; this year, the Rams have outscored their opponents 77-52 and now appear to be a legitimate threat to win the downtrodden NFC West. It's not just No. 1 overall pick Bradford, with his Peyton Manning-type potential, who is starring. It's the Rams' defense too. Under defense-minded coach Steve Spagnuolo, the Rams have held all four opponents to 17 or fewer points. They've won two straight by at least two touchdowns for the first time since 2002. The Rams already have doubled last season's win total. With Bradford and this defense, more wins are coming.

When Peyton Hillis played at Arkansas, he shared the backfield with more heralded running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. But this season, Hillis has been every bit their equal and then some. Hillis has become the first Cleveland Browns running back since Greg Pruitt in 1975 to score a rushing touchdown in four straight games. One NFL executive said that Hillis is running like a 2010 version of former Buccaneers standout fullback Mike Alstott. Those who have played against him have been even more generous in their praise. Before Hillis played the Ravens, Baltimore's defenders said they had never heard of him. But after the game, Ravens defenders told each other that they will be voting for Hillis for this season's Pro Bowl.

Todd Collins replacing Jay Cutler (concussion) as the Chicago Bears' starting quarterback dominated the headlines. But Carolina Panthers fans care more about seeing their former defensive end, Julius Peppers. In this week's five-star installment of Former Standout Plays Old Team, Peppers gets the chance to torment Panthers rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Peppers has been the type of player the Bears expected and the Panthers wanted. Without him, Carolina has relied on a number of replacements. But the one to watch in the future is former Mississippi defensive end Greg Hardy, Carolina's sixth-round pick. Had Hardy entered the 2009 draft, he would have been a first-day pick. He returned to school, underwent foot surgery, struggled his senior year and fell to the sixth round. Now he will see the man the Panthers hope he is good enough to replace.

Last week was Donovan McNabb's highly anticipated return to Philadelphia; this week's homecoming is Trent Edwards' return to Buffalo. Some of last week's questions now can be recycled this week, just with different names. Will Edwards be cheered or booed? Will the Bills be better off without Edwards? Did the Bills know what they had in Ryan Fitzpatrick? Just wondering.

The Schef's Specialties

Game of the week: Vikings at Jets -- Randy Moss makes his Vikings debut, Santonio Holmes makes his Jets debut, and these are two very good teams.

Player of the week: 49ers RB Frank Gore -- If the 49ers are going to get their first win of the season, Gore will need to have a big night against the Eagles.

Upset of the week: Arizona over New Orleans -- To beat the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in his first NFL start would be a lifelong memory for Cardinals quarterback Max Hall, who is from Mesa, Ariz.

Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.