Quiet outings for Moss, Marshall

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Welcome to a bad day for star wide receivers who are trying desperately to feel at home.

Tennessee Titans newcomer Randy Moss(notes) and Brandon Marshall(notes) of the Miami Dolphins produced three receptions for 60 yards, zero touchdowns and a total of 1 minute and 14 seconds of spoken words Sunday. Moss did all the speaking, taking more questions (two) before walking from the podium than passes caught (one).

Despite Miami beating Tennessee 29-17 at Sun Life Stadium, Marshall declined to speak with the media after the game. That was likely prompted by the fact that Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan(notes) was talking to him plenty all contest. Specifically, Finnegan not only frustrated Marshall into catching only two of seven passes thrown his way, the defensive back basically spent the day telling Marshall how predictable the Miami offense has become this season.

“Sometimes I would be calling out his routes because they told me I would have a chance to follow him around all game, play him one-on-one,” Finnegan said. “So I felt like I needed to be prepared and we would laugh sometimes because I would be calling his routes out based on the formations and the splits.”

An opponent shouldn’t be able to figure out what’s coming that easily, right?

“Yeah, yeah, you should,” Finnegan said.

No, you shouldn’t.

“OK, I know, but I watched every single game Miami has played this year and the formation doesn’t lie unless they’re trying to trick you,” said Finnegan, who had three pass deflections and an interception against the Dolphins. “The formations didn’t lie and he didn’t like that.”

While fans of the Dolphins chew on the fact that their team’s offense is easier to read than a high school textbook, Titans supporters have to wonder if Tennessee has enough time to get Moss integrated into the attack. On one hand, there were some promising developments with Moss. The Titans faced two-deep safety coverage almost the entire game, which helped running back Chris Johnson gain 117 yards and score a touchdown on 17 carries. Those stats are similar to what Johnson consistently produced last season on the way to 2,000 yards and could make the Tennessee offense truly dynamic.

“It was nice not seeing the eight-, nine-man fronts we’ve been seeing this season,” Johnson said.

Conversely, Moss was claimed on waivers after being released by the Vikings nearly two weeks to make a significant impact in the passing game.

“We were trying [to get him the ball],” Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said. “I have to look at the tape, but it looks like they were rotating to him and putting one safety over the top, those types of things.”

Perhaps, but there also appeared to be plenty of times that Moss was single covered and Vince Young(notes) never looked his way.

For all the glory that guys like Moss and Marshall provide, the problem with making them productive is similar to getting a great musician in synch with a new band: It takes time. That’s something neither the Titans nor the Dolphins have much of as each turned the backstretch of the NFL season at 5-4 in the deep AFC (there are already five teams in the AFC with six wins).

Moss’ problem is obvious. After being traded by New England and cut by Minnesota, getting him on page with his latest team just isn’t easy. Heck, just getting Young, who entered in the second half when Kerry Collins(notes) injured his calf, to look at him was hard enough.

“They were doing things to take him away,” said Young, who didn’t hit Moss until the 4:31 mark of the fourth quarter. Prior to that, Moss had been a target four times, but his only real contribution was drawing a 33-yard pass interference call on the second drive of the game. That did help set up a touchdown, but was hardly worth the excitement that Moss generated leading up to this game.

The Titans expect a lot more than what they got from Moss in his debut.
(Steve Mitchell/US Presswire)

Then again, that has been the story of Moss the entire year. In nine games this season, Moss has produced 23 catches for 339 yards and five touchdowns. The ratio of touchdowns to receptions is nice and Moss can still produce some electric plays (his 37-yard touchdown for Minnesota against the Jets showed that Moss has plenty of speed left).

But how much can any player really help a team in a game that is so dependent on precision timing?

“I think I just tried to do as much hustling as I could, just try to stay within the offense,” Moss said during his brief session with the media before walking off in the middle of a question. Moss did that after initially saying he wasn’t going to talk, so something was certainly better than nothing.

More importantly, Moss did appear to give positive effort. He delivered a nice block on a 30-yard run by Johnson in the first half. He tried to block a couple of other times. There was only one play where he didn’t appear to run hard, but that could be taken as a positive for Moss.

“I felt comfortable out there, but I don’t think I had a very good overall game,” the 13-year veteran said. “My blocking wasn’t that good to where I wanted it to be. I’ll just go back to the drawing board. … I just want to fit within the offense, man. Me being a decoy, helping the team move the ball down field, if that’s what I have to do to help us win, that’s what I need to do. That’s what I’m gonna do.”

That all sounds good, but making it happen is a much tougher problem.

Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Nov 14, 2010