Owens has posted eight 1,000+ yard receiving seasons out of his last nine, with only an injury riddled 2005 campaign keeping him from hitting the magic 1,000 yards each season this millennium. In that same nine year time span, Owens has averaged 12.1 touchdowns a season.
Despite his obvious production, Owens has also developed a reputation as a receiver who will drop the ball. According to iWon Sports who track drops, Owens led the NFC last season with 10 drops.
Anyone who watched Owens play the last three years for the Cowboys could see he tended to fight the ball and doesn't possess "soft hands," especially in traffic. Hall of Fame NFL writer Rick Gosselin recently referred to Owens as, "The King of Drops," in an article for The Dallas Morning News.
Both of these teams had mobile quarterbacks who would play action and throw one away, then wait for the drag route to clear the linebackers. This was Owens' special. A short pass that he would turn into a long gain by winning a foot race and having the balance and power to shuck a defender one on one.
Next season Owens will turn 36, which will seriously test his ability to continue to win individual foot races. If anyone not named Jerry Rice can maintain his speed, its Owens, but history suggests an imminent decline in production.
Look at the production numbers of the all time leading wide receivers in NFL history tail off at the age of 36. As stated before Rice is an anomaly.
Marvin Harrison ranks second all-time in catches at 1,102. From 1999 to 2006, Harrison averaged 1,402 yards per season. He was hurt in 2007. He turned 36 in 2008 and caught only six balls for 636 yards.
Chris Carter, who ranks third with 1,101 career catches, also saw his production tumble at the age of the 36. Carter was riding an eight season streak of 1,000+ receiving yards, until the 2001 season, when he caught 73 balls for 871 yards.
Tim Brown ranks fourth all-time and he brought a nine season 1,000+ yard receiving season streak to his 36th birthday season, then dropped to 81 catches for 931 yards.
One could argue the numbers still suggest production, but compared to before these players turned 36, there is clearly a drop off.
Not only will Owens be battling the football and an invisible 36 year old wall, he must also find a way to be productive in the frosty conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Four of the last six Bills games will be at home, starting Nov. 29. Of the two road contests, one is to frigid Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 13, then they finally get a warm weather venue playing in the dome in Atlanta.
Since the 2003 season, Eric Moulds is the only receiver to gain over 100 receiving yards in a game at home in December for Buffalo.
If he follows the footsteps of legions of aging NFL receivers, who have gone before him, TO’s show could be played and the popcorn stale in 2009.
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