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Killer Kowalewski

Coach Greg Robinson has already tabbed Joe Kowalewski as one of Syracuse’s most important offensive threats for this upcoming season.

[Insert muffled groan here.]

Don’t get me wrong, I think tight ends are terrific offensive options, especially in a west coast-type system. However, when I hear that an offense is going to look to a tight end that isn’t Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates for significant production, I think skepticism is a reasonable emotional response.

Either that or outright surrender. One of the two. It’s a fine line, I suppose.

[Historical Perspective]
Kowalewski has far from distinguished himself over the four years he has suited up for the Orange. In and of itself, this really raises questions as to why Robinson believes that Kowalewski can become a primary target for Perry Patterson’s incomplete passes. However, it would be unreasonable to think that this means Kowalewski will all but fail to meet the expectations placed upon him for this season. Players do improve, but there are usually indications of this potential by examining historical output.

Cinderella stories are rare; there should be signposts somewhere along the way to generate a “eureka” moment.

The operative question, therefore, is whether Kowalewski has anchored any signposts in his marginal career. By examining these historical trends and applying them to reasonable, yet subjective premises, a clearer picture of what Kowalewski is actually capable of can be painted.

Joe Kowalewski - Career
GamesRec.YardsTD'sY/RecP/RecPRRt%Rec. Off.

Obviously, the above cannot totally gauge the total offensive benefit Kowalewski provided to the Syracuse offense over his career or what effect certain plays impacted how Kowalewski caught the ball. However, this should not stall the ability to generate an analysis since this data does show what Kowalewski did with the ball when he caught it. And when the purpose of an analysis is to question whether Kowalewski can be/was a productive player, a reasonable discussion can take place.

It’s pretty clear from the above data that Kowalewski has neither been a stud nor a dud as a receiving tight end. At 6'4" 250 pounds, however, there is a reasonable expectation that such a large target would be able to provide more offense than has previously been generated, especially on a team with so few consistent receivers.

There are a few things to like about Kowalewski from a strictly statistical perspective. Every year since 2002, Kowalewski has significantly raised the total percentage of offense he was contributing to the club. Whether this was the result of Pasqua-DeLeone giving Kowalewski more opportunities or Kowalewski simply taking advantage of the opportunities given to him is debatable. What isn't up for argument is how much more Kowalewski is contributing to the offense since his total number of receptions, receiving yards and percentage of contributed offense have all significantly risen since 2002.

What is disappointing about Kowalewski's career is the low number of touchdowns the big tight end has been able to accumulate. When Coach Robinson tabs Kowalewski as a significant cog to the Syracuse offensive machine, I read into that an indication that Robinson believes that Kowalewski can be a scoring threat. However, there's nothing in Kowalewski's resume to indicate this kind of ability. He seems to have all the physical attributes necessary to fight for the goal line, but has been unable to do so consistently over his career. Hence, the poor pass receiver rating.

Overall, I think the jury should still be out on whether Kowalewski will become the tight end Coach Robinson is leading everyone to believe. There has been a general increase in Kowalewski's production over the last year or so, but nothing in particular sticks out as indicating Kowalewski's superior talent as a receiving tight end.

To me, it looks as if 2005 will be more of the same from the Warners native. Enough production to lead you to believe that Kowalewski can become a decent target for receptions, but not enough production to lead you to believe that Kowalewski should be doing more than blocking 80% of the time.

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