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Continuing with our projections for the 2008 season, we take a look at Santonio Holmes and how he might fare following a year in which he led the entire National Football League in yards per reception. Any concerns about Holmes' character and ability have long been squashed by Santonio's stellar play and laudable attitude since being drafted in the first round in 2006.
Holmes' numbers improved in every relevant statistical category in his sophomore campaign. His receptions increased from 49 to 52; his yards from 824 to 942; his yards per catch improved from a very impressive 16.8 in 2006 to an even more remarkable 18.1 in '07; and finally, he scored 8 TDs in 2007 compared to just 2 in 2006. Oh, and it's worth mentioning that after fumbling 5 times his first year, he lowered that number to a respectable and acceptable number of just 2 last year.
Let's quickly take a look at my projections for Holmes prior to the 2007 season:
65 receptions, 965 yards, 14.8 YPC, 7 TDs
52 receptions, 942 yards, 18.1 YPC, 8 TDs
Things To Consider Before Projecting Holmes' 2008 season:
1) Health - It's too early in his career to say that Holmes has a chronic case of the injury bug, but he did miss three crucial games last year, and if I recall correctly, was dinged up some his rookie year, despite managing to play in all 16 games. In order to put up Pro Bowl type numbers, players have to play full seasons. Period. And even though I've been tremendously impressed with Holmes' toughness, and with his ability to make tough catches in traffic, there's no changing his relatively diminutive stature. At just 5'10" and 185 pounds, he still runs the risk of getting banged up by the big, fast, and ferocious defenders found on every team in the league.
2) Opposing Defenses - Now that Holmes has established himself as a uber-dangerous receiving threat in this league, defenses are surely going to start gameplanning for him more and more. Will Hines Ward be healthy enough to keep defenses honest and account for his presence? Will Nate Washington and Limas Sweed provide deep ball threats, allowing Holmes to break off some routes over the middle and catch the ball in open space in front of safetys? Will the running game be stout enough that defenses are tempted into putting 7 or 8 guys in the box at times in anticipation of the run, which in turn could allow Big Ben to audible into a favorable matchup for his wideouts? Up to Bruce Arians more than anything, if you ask me.
That said, here's my projection for Santonio Holmes in 2008. As always, I won't pretend that I arrived at these numbers in any sort of sophisiticated manner, other than thinking about the aforementioned mitigating factors:
66 receptions, 1040 yards, 15.75 YPC, 8 TDs
Very solid, albeit probably not Pro Bowl caliber, numbers from Holmes is what I see. I just think our offense is too versatile for anyone player to have a monster season. People may be ready to write off Hines Ward, but I'm not one of them. I still see him catching at least 50 balls, and with all the carries Rashard and FWP should be getting, plus (hopefully) an increased role for Heath Miller, 2008 might not be the year that Holmes explodes onto the national radar with a 80-100 catch season.