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Spoiler Alert: Rice Can Catch

I recently got into a somewhat heated (scotch was involved) discussion as to whether or not Sidney Rice’s success last year directly correlates with the presence of Brett Favre.

Me, being the self-proclaimed “Favre Basher” that I am, argued that Rice is a very talented and productive receiver regardless of who is chucking him the rock (or is it skipping the rock?).  I, of course, brought out the cliché argument that it was injuries that held Rice back in his first two years, not quarterback play.  When he was healthy, however, I saw enough flashes to suggest that we had something special in the young receiver.  After all, not many wide outs (besides Moss) really “break out” before year three anyways.

The other guy insisted that Favre was sent to us by some higher power that our minds can’t comprehend and we should bow down to his presence directly responsible for Rice’s success in 2009 and that his numbers would have suffered greatly with Jackson or Rosenfels behind center.  He even went so far as to suggest that Rice’s ability to stay healthy in 2009 could be attributed to the presence of Favre. 

Neither argument can be “proven” in any measurable way, but there is no denying that Rice improved greatly in his third year with Favre behind center.  In his first two seasons combined, he caught 46 passes for 537 yards and eight touchdowns.  Last season alone, he piled up 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle ground of our two arguments (when scotch is involved, middle ground ceases to exist).  I think it is fair to say that Rice’s time spent working out with Cris Carter, Larry Fitzgerald, and Jerry Rice probably made him a better player.  He probably also simply improved and matured, as he wasn’t even old enough to order a glass of scotch when he entered the league.  Also, Favre’s presence (and the team’s sudden tendency to pass a lot more often) doubtless helped Rice learn nuances of the game and have more opportunities at well placed footballs.  Lastly, his ability to stay healthy in 2009 kept him on the field all season and was probably the single most important factor in his success… as it is a lot easier to pile on the stats when you are actually playing the game.

So, after sobering up a bit, I am willing to concede that Favre seems to be at least partially responsible for the incredible success experienced by Rice (and especially Percy Harvin) last season.  However, there is no denying (in my mind) that Rice deserves credit on his own.

Football Outsiders recently did an analysis of the entire league in regards to dropped passes.  No Viking at any position were among the worst ten in the NFL in terms of dropping passes over the last two seasons (minimum of 30 targeted passes). 

There is an interesting note towards the bottom of the article, however, which explains that over the last two seasons Sidney Rice had the best hands in the NFL among wide outs (Brian Westbrook apparently has the best hands of all players) as he only dropped 1.3 percent of all passes thrown at him during that time period.

When you compare that to guys like Darius Heyward-Bey (17.1% dropped) and Dwayne Bowe (12.5% dropped) I think we are pretty lucky to have a sure-handed receiver like Rice on our side… and so is Brett Favre.

Rice is entering the final year of his rookie contract, but does not appear unhappy with his situation, and seems to be working as hard as ever.  Rice has reportedly added about eight pounds of muscle, and adding the bulk to his otherwise slim and trim frame should help him absorb hits and stay healthy. 

I for one am looking forward to what the future holds for the Vikings budding star, and have complete faith that his (hopefully) soon-to-come contract extension will ensure he is catching everything thrown his way while wearing purple for a long, long time. 

Regardless of who is at quarterback.

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4 Responses to “Spoiler Alert: Rice Can Catch”

  1. c.carterhof says:

    Adam, first of all congrats on your 999th post.
    I believe Rice was a star waiting to happen. But I think Favre helped that to happen. Not only from throwing the ball where he could catch it, but in showing confidence in him.

  2. Yeah baby! Nobody does it better than you, Adam…and Sidney. Great in-depth coverage, Adam. I love being a part of it all. Great company too. All o’ yous are the best. SKOL VIKINGS!!!

  3. CSlinde says:

    Great post A-Dubs! Welcome back from hiatus as well. I don’t remember our discussion being all that heated; passionate maybe. Gotta love the scotch, was very nice until the ride home! lol

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