Not every player declines at the same age or in the same way. Torry Holt's decline has been subtle and influenced by the talent around him.
The Rams have now lost Orlando Pace to injury in back to back seasons. They lost Kevin Curtis (27% DVOA, 11.5 DPAR) this last offseason to free agency and replaced him with Drew Bennet (-38.4%, -4.1) and Dane Looker (-23.8%, -.3). Isaac Bruce is nearing 35. With Steven Jackson out, teams have been able to double Holt--in fact they'd be foolish not to. Still, he has in many ways persevered. Despite Gus Frerotte starting the last two games, an offensive line in shambles, a conservative offense that doesn't play to Holt's strengths and no other legitimate offensive weapon, Holt has rebounded this season. He is not what he once was, but as future HOFer, he is still very good--and still very dangerous.
In 2006 Marcus Trufant was the only quality cover guy in our entire secondary. Because of this the perception of his play suffered badly. This season he has quietly become one of the premiere cover corners in all of football. After finishing a miserable 23rd covering #1 receivers in 2006, the Seahawks are currently 5th. With Hamlin and Boulware gone, and Kelly Jennings playing much better than Kelly Herndon, Seattle no longer must rely on Trufant to constantly work on an island. When he goes deep, he can expect safety help. If you watched Trufant the last two seasons you might not see a dramatic difference, but the results and the perception of Tru's play have shifted from potential bust, to premiere free agent to be.
When Seahawks fans think of Torry Holt, this little bit of amazement certainly springs to mind.
That day Holt hauled down 8 receptions for 154 yards and three touchdowns. It might be surprising to hear, then, that Holt has performed worse that normal against the Seahawks. From 2004-2006, Holt averaged 4 less yards, .6 less receptions but .2 more touchdowns per contest against Seattle than against all opponents. That's not a sizable difference, noise really, but it does prove that Holt doesn't particularly kill the Seahawks.
Marcus Trufant is in his prime. In fact, he doesn't even turn 27 until Christmas (poor guy). Holt, however great, is in decline. In the past when we thought about this matchup we wondered only how bad the damage would be. Would Trufant be humiliated or just burned? But time changes all things, some players grow into their skills while others slow, become injury prone, shadows of their former greatness. Holt is the legend, but you're almost never a legend until your best days are behind you. Trufant is Now, a very good player entering his physical prime. Trufant has already shown the ability to cover better receivers than 2007 Torry Holt: Chad Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Joey Galloway. So this Sunday we can finally ask, will Holt be humiliated or just shut down?