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A weekly look at a player whose performance must improve in 2010.
Expectations -- as always -- are high in New England. For the Patriots to reach those expectations, they need more from Randy Moss. Moss is an all-time great player. He is a future Hall of Famer and is still producing at a high level. I contend that Moss wasn't as effective as his numbers indicated last season, but clearly he can still make plays and dominate opponents.
There is a lot to like about what Moss brings to the table. I think his supposed lack of effort on a play-by-play basis is overblown. But the issue with Moss is that he doesn't excel in every area of his game. In a way, he is just a one-trick pony, and that one trick is getting deep. It isn't a stretch to say that Moss is the best deep threat who has ever played the game. In his three seasons with the Patriots, Moss has caught 47 touchdown passes. While he isn't quite in his prime anymore at 33 years old and might not possess the home run ability that he once did, few can compete with him deep downfield. But what I want to see is Moss develop more as an intermediate route runner with outs, comebacks and the like.
Counting on Wes Welker, who suffered a left knee injury in Week 17, to be his normal self for the 2010 season will be a long shot. Of course, the Patriots will add reinforcements at wide receiver and tight end, positions that are extremely thin right now, but in the end, Moss must pick up the slack. Tom Brady will be two years removed from his knee injury and there is a good chance that the pass protection will improve, both of which bode well for Moss.
Moss has indicated that he might not be in New England much longer. But he, Brady and the coaching staff must get Moss back into the realm of the two or three best players at his position in the league. Moss was unable to exceed 75 yards receiving in any of his past eight games.
In Moss' two games against the Jets last year, he caught nine passes for 58 yards. Of course, he was going against Darrelle Revis in those games. That won't cut it against what is now New England's most dangerous divisional rival.
In the end, if the Patriots are going to get back to prominence and dominate the AFC East once again, Moss must take his already lofty game up another level.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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1dEric D. Williams