exploding in slow motion over the years. There are probably several causes, including rule changes, early player development, and tactical innovations. But one theory I haven't heard is that equipment is helping receivers, specifically their gloves.
Have you seen these things? I was in a sporting goods store yesterday, and there was a prominent display featuring special gear Nike created for the Army Navy game next Saturday. For some reason the main focus was on $75 'Vapor Jet' receiver gloves. Being a Navy guy I couldn't resist the display, so I grabbed a pair of the gloves. My God, there is no way a receiver should ever drop any pass wearing these gloves. Whatever the material is on the palms and fingers, it was probably developed by NASA so astronauts could snag meteors while out on spacewalks.
Now all those miraculous, acrobatic one-handed catches suddenly make more sense to me. I'm not sure when gloves like that got so good, or exactly what the effect has been, but it's hard to imagine they haven't made a substantial difference.
I'm sure other developments in gear have influenced the sport. The trend is toward smaller and lighter pads, and today's helmets are lighter too. Modern cleats in conjunction with the trend toward field turf may also have an effect.