For many, one of the most unlikely storylines of the first half of the NFL season was Vince Young’s presence at or near the top of the league’s passer ratings.
The Tennessee Titans’ quarterback comes off the bye week first in the AFC and second overall to Philadelphia’s Michael Vick with a rating of 103.1. He’s also second to San Diego’s Philip Rivers in yards per attempt (8.2).
Both numbers represent a significant increase over his career averages coming into the season.
With the waiver wire acquisition of Randy Moss, Young has now his most accomplished and polished wide receiver ever for the second half of the season. No longer is his passing prowess a curiosity or a luxury,
Imagine giving a fiddle player a Stradivarius. The expectations change quite dramatically.
Yet Young repeatedly downplayed the potential impact of Moss following Thursday’s workout, his first at full speed with the All-Pro receiver. Young sat out earlier practice sessions this week because of an ankle injury, which has contributed to the fact that he has missed all or parts of the last three games.
“He’s a veteran receiver,” Young said. “I’ll just go through my reads and find where he’s at. That’s all you have to do.
“…Yes, we all know what Randy can do on the outside and does them type of spectacular plays. There’s a time for them type of plays. There’s a time not for those plays. It’s just based on what the defense is doing and I want to get the ball into the right guy’s hands, based on the coverage, like I’ve been doing.”
His reaction and comments in regard to the acquisition were consistently muted in comparison to virtually any of his other teammates, including backup quarterback Kerry Collins.
Perhaps it is a way to show support for Justin Gage and Nate Washington and the rest of the receivers who were with the Titans throughout the entire offseason, training camp and so on yet find themselves in supporting roles. Perhaps a young, still-developing player is hesitant to offer any commentary on a four-time All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler and one of the NFL’s top 10 in career receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
Or perhaps it is that Young recognizes just how much Moss changes things in regard to the offense.
Suddenly, it no longer is a question of whether or not this team can throw the ball to help open up the running game. The feeling is that it will throw the ball effectively.
“Before Randy was here we still were doing a good job playing great ball,” Young said. “With him added on, it makes defenses have to make a decision what they’re going to have to do with him, with Nate Washington. We have so many weapons on offense, it’s a blessing to have these guys.”
Defenses might actually decide to defend the pass first and devote extra men to coverage, which quite obviously has not been the case through the first eight weeks.
That puts more pressure on the quarterback to make the right decisions and more difficult throws.
It should be noted that Young has attempted fewer passes than any of the other top 25 in current passer rating. His total, in fact, is less than one-third of some others’.
Already this season, Moss has played with two of the most prolific passers in league history, New England’s Tom Brady and Minnesota’s Brett Favre. In concert with Brady in 2007 he set an NFL record with 23 touchdown receptions in a season. In his first game with Favre, he caught four passes for 81 yards, including a season-high 37-yard touchdown reception.
“I want to eventually be in the top ranks with these guys,” Young said. “That’s why I’m going to continue to keep working and taking notes from (Moss) and things he sees and hears out there as well as the rest of the receiving corps. It’s all about team.”
It might not be Young who throws to Moss or anyone else Sunday at Miami.
Because of the ankle injury, he split time during Thursday’s workout with Collins. Coach Jeff Fisher said the division of labor was by design and that he was not prepared to name a starter.
“It’s an injury,” Young said. “You have to take your time and be smart about the whole situation. We’ve still got a long season.
“Yes, I want to be out there playing, but if it’s not going to let me get out there and play, I won’t play. At the same time, if I feel good, you’ll see me playing.”
If he does, it will be with increased expectations.