However, IMO if Nate can continue at this level( which I think he can), I don't think he is in the "dime a dozen" catergory. Even last year, his production(5 TD's) was more than a lot of #2 receivers.
I think looking strictly at it from a numbers perspective can be a little misleading. While I can't recall specific games, I'm willing to bet that a good chunk of Nate's '07 numbers came from games where he was asked to step in for an ailing Holmes and/or Ward. IIRC, both of those guys missed 3 or 4 games each. With a guy like #7 "behind the helmet" and the kind of numbers he put up, coupled with some starters missing games, it's not too surprising that Washington did what he did.
Banking on Sweed or Baker to step in and perform just as well as Nate, let alone better, is a big stretch for me. They have showed absolutely nada so far. Baker has just been able to hang on and Sweed couldn't even beat him out this year. I just don't see how they could easily replace his production AJ. Neither of them has caught jack shit yet. And going out a getting a Ced type of quality guy would be a waste of money and thats about all there is out there in FA for the money . The Colts proved that a good QB with 3 legit WR's(plus a good TE) is trouble for defenses and to be able to do without breaking the bank on the 3rd guy is huge. You know Holmes is going to want to get paid soon.
I can't think of another #3 guy who has scored 7 TD's in the past 22 games. Can anyone?.. He is currently 2nd on the team with TD catches this year and a 15 yard average with 15 catches. He had 29 catches for 450 yards( a 15.5 yard average) with 5TD's last year. Again, no other #3 guy comes to mind with that average and TD production and he seems to be improving ( that tranny Henry doesn't count). Of course he is benefiting from the attention paid to the other 2 guys, but to lump him in with all the other #3 guys out there who aren't coming close to his production isn't fair. Yes, he dropped one too many passes in past, but he is getting the job done now. And doing it well. If Sweed or Baker pans out, that would make one hell of a WR corps, but remember, #86 doesn't have a lot of high production years left, so there will always be a need for a quality #3 guy.
I guess I think more highly of Nate than most, but his numbers speak for themselves and I don't buy the argument that he can easily be replaced, either by someone already on the roster, or through FA with a reasonable contract. Come on Nate! Prove your doubters wrong!
Yeah, I guess in retrospect, maybe expecting Baker/Sweed to play like Washington has in the last few is a bit presumptuous and it's true that they haven't done anything yet. Still, I like what I saw from Baker in preseason (moreso than what I saw from Washington) so it's quite possible that he just hasn't had the opportunity yet. In fact, Baker reminds me of a bigger, stronger Washington.
I just think that when you look at Nate the player and his "football skills," that's where that "dime a dozen" comment comes from. That's just my opinion of him. I look at who some teams have at the #3 and I see a lot of guys that I think are as good or better "players." Again, IMO.
Here are some #3 guys. Ask yourself who you would rather have, them or Washington?
James Hardy (small body of work, but he has all the tools)
Patrick Crayton or Miles Austin
Brandon Stokley or Darrell Jackson (both on Denver)
Mike Furrey or Shaun McDonald
Steve Smith (NYG)
pretty much any of these 5 on the Eagles since it's really tough to determine who the #3 is (Kevin Curtis, Reggie Brown, Hank Baskett, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant)
Now, if I have the chance later, I might come back and go through that list player by player, but with a quick glance, there are a lot
of guys I'd rather have as my #3 over Washington, maybe as much as half that list. Then, when I look to see that some of those guys are potential FAs in '09 (Baskett, McDonald, Gaffney to name a few), I just don't get too concerned about replacing Nate on this team. It's just my $0.02 worth, but I think a lot of those guys would outperform Nate if put in the same situation he's been in Pittsburgh.