Last Saturday, Owens has one of the worst games you’ll ever see a WR have. He was targeted 5 times for zero receptions. This included dropping a perfect pass for a touchdown, missing another back-shoulder throw near the goal line because it appeared he wasn’t paying attention. Those 2 plays were bad, but they aren’t what i’m concerned about. It’s the other 3 that concern me.
The drop was mostly rust in my opinion, and will be more likely caught once he’s back in the league for a few more weeks. The back-shoulder throw will come once he’s gotten used to his QB and builds up some report with the one throwing the passes. (This is also not a problem if Russell Wilson wins the starting QB job, since those passes aren’t in his arsenal)
There was another play, in which Owens walked a few steps, jogged for a while, and then went into his route. Once the ball was thrown Owens didn’t make much of an effort to fend of the defender. Flynn threw a good pass on this play, but Camp Bailey was simply better than the pass. This play is concerning simply because of Owens’s effort level. It has that spark of “the play isn’t going to me so I’m not going to try” mentality, though w/o knowing Owens’s actual assignment on the play, I probably shouldn’t be too critical.
The other two plays are the ones that make me truly worry about if Owens will ever fit into Seattle’s scheme. Both plays included Owens running what is called an “option route.” These are extremely common in the Seahawk offensive scheme, and exist in just about every passing play. They require both the QB and WR to make reads of the defense, both pre and post snap, in order to determine where the receiver is supposed to go after the point in which he makes his break.
In the NFL, these are simply two types of offenses in terms of option routes, those that use them, and those that don’t. Option routes attack the defense more completely, but they limit the talent pool of receivers that are available. Receivers simply aren’t asked to make these types of reads at any level of their development before the NFL, and many fail to make the adjustment. Some NFL teams choose to use them in order to keep things simple for the receivers.
It has been well documented that this was Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson’s problem in New England last season. The offense in Cincinatti does not employ option routes, while the one in New England is one of the few that relies on them as heavily as the Seahawks do. Remember all the talk early in the season about Johnson “not knowing the playbook?” It wasn’t that he didn’t know the plays, it was that he was running the wrong routes because he wasn’t making the propper reads.
The connection here is that Owens also played in Cincinatti in 2010. Before that, he played in Buffalo, another team that doesn’t use option routes.
Owens has played for the Eagles, Cowboys and 49ers before that, all in offenses that use option routes to some degree, so he should be able to adjust and make the proper reads, but he didn’t last week. On the 2 plays where he was asked to read the defense, Owens simply made the wrong read on both plays.
This has to be concerning for the Seahawks. Owens has shown that, physically, he’s still able to get enough separation to make a difference. But if he can’t make the correct reads, then his physical abilities simply wont matter to the offense.
Obviously, tomorrow’s game will tell us a lot more than we know right now. Owens could go out and have have huge game, and all of these concerns will go away. If he goes out and makes the same mistakes we saw a week ago, then it’s time to move on and give the pre-season and practice squad reps to someone else.