This is my first post. I hope it is worth the time to read.
Josh McDaniels has a history of creating potent statistics for wide receivers in his system (see Moss, Randy - Welker, Wes). What does that mean for the Broncos in 2009? Which one of our young star wide receivers may be most impacted by the arrival of the new Head Coach's system?
Let me start by saying it won't be Brandon Marshall.
While Marshall gets a lot of press, for both good and bad reasons, it is safe to say his skill set is different than that of Randy Moss, who played the same spot Marshall mans for the Broncos. While both are tall at 6'4", Moss is a more slender (210 lbs.) speed player than Marshall (230 lbs.), who outmuscles defenders and is tough to bring down after the catch. The speed Moss brings to the table is evidenced by his eye-popping yardage totals over the years.
To compare the two, Marshall's last two seasons saw him bring in over 100 catches with 1,325 yards (12.9 ypc + 7 td's) and 1,265 yards (12.1 ypc + 6 td's) respectively. Impressive totals to be sure, but Moss' two seasons of about 100 receptions (2003 and 2007) saw him rack up 1,632 yards (14.7 ypc + 17 td's) and 1,493 yards (15.2 + 23 td's). The yards per catch and TD receptions indicate Moss' speed and leaping ability put him in a different WR skill set than the strong as an ox Marshall (Moss also put up better yardage totals than Marshall with less catches in other years, but I used the similar catch totals in order to compare apples to apples). Moss runs past defenders and outleaps them for long TD bombs while Marshall catches the ball in a ton of traffic before running through and around defenders for more yards. You can't arm tackle Marshall, but he also will not be blazing past the secondary on his way to a wide-open bomb.
As a result, I believe Marshall's numbers will be similar to what he has already posted the last couple of years. Nothing to scoff at, to be sure, but I don't think he will go to "another level" in McDaniels' system and become a Randy Moss statistic clone. (Marshall and his agent may think that, as well, and it could be a secondary reason they are pushing so hard for new deal right now, versus waiting for a monster statistical year and asking for even more money during or after.)
On the other hand, Eddie Royal and Wes Welker share similar skill sets. Both have virtually identical body types (Royal 5'10" 182 lbs. and Welker 5'9" 185 lbs.) and both are quick, nimble guys who can go over the middle as well as blow by a napping DB for a long gain (remember Royal's Cleveland TD?).
The reason I see Royal going to another level in McDaniels' system is the way Welker was utilized for the two years McDaniels had him. Remember, Welker didn't come to NE as the weapon he turned into. He was turning heads as a deadly kick returner who was also showing flashes of being a good receiver in Miami. The year before Welker came to NE, he had 67 catches for 687 yards and 1 TD (and a boatload of kick return yardage). In two years under McDaniels, Welker became a pass catching machine, hauling in 112 catches for 1,175 yards (10.4 ypc + 8 td's) and 111 catches for 1,165 yards (10.4 ypc + 3 td's). Except for the dip in TD's under Cassell, that spells consistency with two different QB's. That also spells system.
Last year, Royal had an impressive rookie outing with 91 catches for 980 yards (10.7 ypc + 5 td's) in Denver's pass happy offense. When you look at their similar body types and skill sets, plus the fact Welker was able to generate big numbers in his first year under McDaniels, it appears Royal is poised for a step up to 20+ more catches and at least a couple of hundred more yards in the new offensive system. Taking into account Marshall's numbers will most likely not be as high as those Moss generated, Royal may be looking at an even bigger slice of the receiving pie than what Welker received opposite Moss, which may mean even higher reception and yardage totals in the pass happy NE style scheme that has arrived in our town.
In summary, we just might see Royal as the Denver receiver with the highest catch and yardage totals in 2009. Should be interesting to watch.