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Gaffney could make immediate impact in Houston

Discussion in 'Houston Texans' started by hoopgod13, Jul 9, 2002.

  1. hoopgod13

    hoopgod13 Contributing Member

    Mar 4, 2002
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    Gaffney could make immediate impact in Houston

    There were three wide receivers selected ahead of Jabar Gaffney in the 2002 draft and one of them, Donte Stallworth of the New Orleans Saints, already is being touted as a rookie of the year candidate based just on his springtime practices.

    Yet there is reason to suggest that Gaffney, the former University of Florida star and the first prospect chosen in the second round, could be the most productive of all the rookie wide receivers this season. The evidence in such a guesstimate is based on his individual talents, familiarity with a sophisticated passing game, family bloodlines and, maybe most essential, the fact Gaffney was chosen by the expansion Houston Texans.

    That last component is not to be overlooked, since Gaffney could have a much easier road earning playing time than the three wide receivers chosen in the first round.

    "Everybody here is new, starting off at the same spot, so there's some (parity) of sorts," Gaffney noted last month. "The veterans always have an edge, of course, but the coaches will play the best people. And I'm going to work hard to earn their respect."

    Despite breathtaking speed and playmaking skills, Stallworth still rates behind Joe Horn and Jerome Pathon on the New Orleans depth chart. Ashley Lelie will be no better than the No. 3 wideout in Denver, provided Ed McCaffrey is rehabilitated from a broken leg, and Javon Walker of the Packers also figures to play primarily on third down at the outset of his professional career.

    But the Texans offensive depth chart remains a bit unsettled just two weeks before their inaugural camp commences and the competition facing Gaffney is not daunting.

    The most experienced receiver, former Baltimore Ravens star Jermaine Lewis, has 16 touchdown catches in his career, but only three since 1998, and has been utilized more as a return specialist the last several seasons. Free agent-acquisition Corey Bradford is the consummate tease, a physical and acrobatic receiver capable of making the tough catch, but a guy who seems to always be injured in even-numbered years, which might not bode well for 2002. Tony Simmons, Avion Black and Trevor Insley are largely untested.

    The shortage long-ball threats is indicative of a Texans offense that, even with the presence of highly respected coordinator Chris Palmer, might struggle to score points in its maiden season. None of the tights ends on the roster, for instance, has more than one touchdown catch. Tailbacks James Allen and Travis Prentice have combined for only 13 rushing touchdowns. His poise and maturity aside, David Carr will be subject to the same kinds of problems that plague every rookie quarterback.

    In such an environment the well-trained Gaffney, tutored by his father and Steve Spurrier on the nuances wide receiver position, should have an instant opportunity to become the "go to" guy for Carr, and a chance to make an immediate impact as a rookie. During the spring practices, Houston coaches observed the beginnings of a synergy between Gaffney and Carr, and the two have worked hours together on their timing.

    Noted Carr after a recent minicamp session: "Coming from (Florida), he understands the passing game well, and he's a very smooth receiver. The guy really is a natural."

    Then again, given that Gaffney was learning basic pass routes before he could walk, some things are simply second nature to him. His father, Derrick Gaffney, is a onetime Gators star who played 10 seasons and 100 games at wide receiver for the New York Jets (1978-87). Derrick Gaffney's three brothers, including former quarterback Don Gaffney, all are onetime University of Florida players. Derrick's cousin, cornerback Lito Sheppard, was the first-round choice of the Philadelphia Eagles this year.

    Jabar Gaffney's first toy, placed in his crib at birth, was a football. At age 4, he ran pass routes, mapped out by his father in the backyard of the family's Jacksonville home. When he was older, Gaffney played against kids two or three years his senior at the city's famed Scott Park, a stretch of open green where NFL stars like LeRoy Butler polished their games. Gaffney even spent time breaking down videotape of his father's NFL games.

    He learned, through hundreds of daily repetitions, how to run precise patterns, how to explode in and out of a move, how to cut without throttling down.

    "He's been doing it so long," Sheppard said, "it's like he can run (routes) in his sleep. He was just meant to be a wide receiver, you know? He was always in the fast lane."

    Actually, the Gaffney road to success took one detour in 1999 that could have ended his NFL aspirations, when Spurrier kicked him off the team for stealing $245 in cash and a watch from the UF locker room during a high school championship game. Gaffney made restitution and apologized and, after much soul-searching by Spurrier, was reinstated. It is an indiscretion of which Gaffney still does not speak, other than to acknowledge it as a critical error in judgement.

    His family has blamed the incident on the company Gaffney was keeping at the time. But some NFL teams, already concerned by the lack of success other highly-touted Florida wide receivers have had at the professional level, regarded the episode as a manifestation of Gaffney's lack of maturity. Those doubts, and some misgivings about his quickness and small hands and ability to go into the crowd after the ball, probably cost him a spot in the first round. It was a status he sorely coveted but one that, nearly three months later, no longer seems important to him.

    In only two seasons under Spurrier, he totaled 138 catches, 2,375 yards, 27 touchdowns, and had 12 receptions of 50 yards or more. Gaffney is wise enough to comprehend those are numbers that are probably out of his reach as an NFL rookie. He also knows, though, that such gaudy statistics are within his reach once he gains some experience.

    Gaffney possesses an inherent ability to separate from the cornerback -- the natural ability to create space between himself and the defender -- and that trait has been obvious already in the Texans' spring drills. He's also got a knack for finding the end zone, something the Houston franchise might not do with regularity in 2002.

    If history is any indicator, Houston will rank among the league's lowest-scoring outfits in '02, as did each of the last three expansion franchises. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns averaged just 260.3 points in their inaugural years. The Browns were last in scoring in 1999 and, in 1995, Carolina scored the fifth-fewest points in the league and Jacksonville the third fewest.

    But the statistic that could mean the most for Gaffney's individual statistics in that those three teams threw the ball on nearly 60 percent of their snaps. It is far easier, after all, to quickly develop a passing game than it is a running attack. If the Texans put the ball in the air 560 or so times -- the average pass plays for the last three expansion teams -- Gaffney should pull down his share of the aerials.

    "This is something I've been training my whole life to do," he said. "I'm ready to get started."


    I can't wait to see this guy in action...he is gonna be one of the best receivers in the league soon enough.
  2. mfclark

    mfclark Member

    Mar 15, 2001
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    I find the part about his schooling in the game kinda funny. That must be all he's done, because both he and Javon Walker (WR, fmrly. FSU, now of the Green Bay Packers) tested the lowest on that test they give to most NFL prospects.

    They both scored a 9 out of 36. I believe 11 is the standard level of literacy. He may have some trouble adjusting to the NFL game, but even though I may be biased against him, he should be a good player in the NFL, developing as Carr does. Definately a 2nd round-worthy pick.

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