OWINGS MILLS – Regardless of whether Julian Edelman really is a clone of fallen New England Patriots star Wes Welker, it’s no secret which wide receiver is going to draw the most attention from the Baltimore Ravens’ secondary.
Of course, his name is Randy Moss.
And the assignment of shadowing Moss will once again go to Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth.
During the Ravens’ 27-21 loss to the Patriots on Oct. 4, Foxworth did a respectable job of containing Moss.
Moss was limited to three receptions for 50 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown catch where he hauled in a short-armed Tom Brady pass just out of Foxworth’s grasp.
“I felt really good about how I played him last time,” Foxworth said. “I was a little upset about the play he scored on, though.
“It was like a tipped ball, but it ended up being a difference in the game. I wasn’t happy with it. Aside from that, it was good to have that experience against a guy like that.”
For the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Foxworth, Moss’ size advantage at 6-4, 210 pounds can be limited through strong technique and leaping ability.
The Ravens used some bracket coverage techniques against Moss during the first matchup, too.
Moss has caught 83 passes for 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns this season while drawing heavy criticism for his attitude, especially when he was accused of tanking it during a win over the Carolina Panthers.
He was sent home from practice earlier this year and was late for another practice.
Still, Moss’ explosive presence remains a huge factor in this rematch.
“He does everything well,” Foxworth said. “He’s pretty tall, he’s got great ball skills and change of direction for a big guy. He’s fast as hell. He’s an all-around receiver.
“He changes directions like a little guy. You don’t find many people that tall that are that quick. He’s a huge challenge in every way.”
Twelve seasons into his career, Moss has caught 926 passes for 14,465 yards and 148 touchdowns.
He has averaged 15.6 yards per catch.
“Randy can go deep, and he can jump over you, so you’re going to have to play him a little differently,” said cornerback Chris Carr. “You’re going to have be more conscious in your mind that, ‘Hey, if he gets over the top of me, it’s going to be a touchdown.’
“You’re going to have to adjust your game, but you should go out there with the same confidence that you can cover this guy and do your job.”
With Welker, who led the NFL with 123 receptions, on injured reserve with torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, the complexion of the game has been altered.
Although Edelman is a sure-handed converted quarterback from Kent State, he’s not Welker.
He’s a Mini-Welker who caught 10 passes for 103 yards in the regular-season finale against the Houston Texans.
“We pretty much think that Edelman will run the exact same plays as Welker,” Carr said. “Edelman seems like a Wes Welker clone. If we think it’s going to be just a Randy Moss game, we’re going to be mistaken. Edelman has played very well when he’s got his opportunity.
“I think Bill Belichick’s going to say, ‘Nothing’s going to change, we still have the players and we’re going to get the job done. For me as a nickel back, my focus is going to be on Edelman in the slot. I think they’re going to throw a lot of passes his way.”
Even though he missed time earlier this season with a broken forearm, Edelman has caught 37 passes for 359 yards and one touchdown.
“Edelman is like everybody says, he’s a clone,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “The good news is we’ve spent a lot of time watching that offense without thinking Welker was going to be in there. The offense doesn’t change.
“Somebody else has to step it up. Moss is a tremendous receiver. Our guys know that they’ve got to be on their ‘A’ game. That’s what happens when you make the playoffs.”
Between Moss, Sam Aiken, tight end Ben Watson and Edelman, the Patriots have a lot of weapons.
Led by Brady at the controls, the Patriots have the third-ranked passing game in the NFL.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.