Everybody loves a good milestone, don’t they?
Baseball fans salivate over the hallowed marks of 500 home runs, 300 wins, and 3,000 hits and strikeouts. Hockey fans love to see guys score their 500th
goal or their 1,000th
point. We all love to see records fall, too. NFL fans knew Dan Marino’s record of 5,084 passing yards off the top of their heads, and plenty still know Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 rushing yard mark.
The career marks, however, are starting to falter somewhat in the minds of the public. The explosion of offensive talent has turned 30,000 yards from a Hall of Fame guarantee to the mark of a great-but-not-amazing career. Consider that out of the 13 quarterbacks who have thrown over 40,000 yards, seven played at least a portion of their career in the 2000’s (six if you discount Warren Moon’s 2000 season).
Because of this, not many fans may be up on what milestones are due to be crossed this year. Here’s a primer for the big offensive numbers that should be coming in the 2012-13 season. Italics indicate those who are somewhat close but would need to outperform expectations to reach the marks.
40,000 – Tom Brady (currently has 39,979), Donovan McNabb (37,276)
30,000 – Eli Manning (27,579), Ben Roethlisberger (26,579), Carson Palmer (25,447)
Barring an injury very, very early in the season (like in 2007), Brady will become the 14th
quarterback to throw for over 40,000 yards. He could finish the year as high as eighth on the career list, depending on how Drew Brees’ season plays out.
McNabb has stated his desire to return to the league, but would have to not only find a job and win the starting role, but overcome his severe drop-off in skill to pick up the 2,724 yards he needs.
In the other group, Manning needs only 2,421 yards to reach the 30,000 mark. Given that he’s cleared that by at least 800 yards in every full season he’s played, that’s a given.
Roethlisberger, exactly 1,000 behind him, needs a total that he’s topped three times, including last season. Having Mike Wallace under contract would make this a given, but it’s closer without him considering the loss of Hines Ward to retirement.
Palmer is 4,553 yards short of the mark, a total that would be a career high by over 400 yards. However, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy are a far cry from the heydays of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Palmer struggled for most of last season (albeit with little knowledge of the playbook and a few months’ worth of rust). It would be unexpected to even see him hit 4,000 this season, but stranger things have happened.
10,000 – Steven Jackson (9,093)
With LaDainian Tomlinson retiring just shy of fourth place on the all-time list, and the new leading active rusher in Thomas Jones likely in a minor role as his career winds down in Kansas City, the new torch-bearer for marching up the rushing list is Jackson.
While he rarely plays all 16 games, he has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the last seven seasons. He’ll likely finish the season at 26th
on the list, but could pass Ottis Anderson for 25th
with a strong effort (1,181 yards or more).
The next-highest active rusher is Frank Gore, whose 7,625 yards will keep him out of the club for at least another season.
With the explosion of the passing game and the reliance of committee backfields, the workhorse back that Jackson has been for so long is an almost-dead breed.
It’s entirely possible that the next person to join this group aside from Gore could be Cleveland’s Trent Richardson, who has yet to even play a down in the NFL.
Top-10 All-Time – Tony Gonzalez (44 yards shy)
10,000 Yards – Andre Johnson (9,656), Larry Fitzgerald (9,615), Anquan Boldin (9,244), Santana Moss (9,142)
Tony Gonzalez is already miles ahead of Shannon Sharpe on the all-time receiving yards list for tight ends (1.85 miles, to be exact), but with another 44 he’ll pass Torry Holt and join the ranks of the most prolific receivers, yardage-wise, the game has ever known.
Given the role of the tight end during Gonzalez’s prime, that is nothing short of amazing. He could finish as high as seventh on the list when it’s all over.
It is likely, however, that he’ll end up being passed by the first two names who will hit 10,000 yards this year. Although both have questions at the quarterback position (Matt Schaub’s injury history and the quandary in Arizona), both have proven that they can make the best of bad situations.
Johnson should also be plenty rested after sitting out half of last season with a knee injury. Boldin is slowing down, both because of age and the Ray Rice-centered offense, but if he can manage to repeat last season’s performance of 887 yards he’ll finish over the mark.
Moss is 858 yards short of 10,000, and he has two questions surrounding him: can his legs still carry him, and will he develop enough of a rapport with RGIII to reach that total? He only managed 584 yards last season, but even a rookie passer should outperform the quagmire of last season.
Top-10 All-Time – Reggie Wayne (89 receptions shy)
1,000 Receptions – Randy Moss (954)
This is about as much of a toss-up as there can be. On one hand, Wayne will turn 34 in the middle of the season and has only topped 89 catches three times in his 11-year career. On the other hand, he did manage 75 catches last season while Indy rotated The Old, The Bad, and The Ugly at quarterback last season.
Like with Washington, even a rookie quarterback should do better than that group. However, when that rookie is the best pro prospect at the position since Peyton Manning, he almost assuredly will.
It’s also important to note that, of Indy’s top six receivers last season, only Austin Collie will join Wayne with the team this season. There’s a lot of catches for Wayne to pick up, and if he can he’ll pass Andre Reed for the tenth spot this coming season. Ahead of Reed, however, is an even greater enigma in Moss.
After taking a season off, Moss returns in San Francisco needing 46 catches to reach four digits. There are a few factors working against him, however, that could keep him from that group.
First, he’s 35 years old and doesn’t have the physical gifts that we saw in Minnesota and New England.
Second, he only managed 28 catches while receiving passes from Tom Brady, Brett Favre, and a still-serviceable Kerry Collins the last time he played. Alex Smith is a game manager and doesn’t go to the receivers nearly as much as that group.
Finally, the group of receivers Smith does have is much more talented than Moss at this point. Vernon Davis has established himself as a force at tight end, Michael Crabtree is a very talented receiver who is looking to put everything together this season, and Frank Gore has caught 43 or more passes five times in his career (although he only managed 17 last season). Moss will need to show that he’s more New England than Oakland to get the necessary catches, but it’s still a possibility.
All statistics obtained via pro-football-reference.com