Chicago Bears: Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery
Brandon Marshall heads into his 9th season. His history with Jay Cutler, well that rapport has translate form Denver to Chicago in the tune of 100 receptions in 2013. The duo connected for a dozen scores and nearly 1,300 yards. Marshall reached the 100-yard mark six times last season, one more than Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery hauled in 89 balls and led the Bears with 1,421 receiving yards. He also caught 7 touchdowns, and carried the ball 16 times for 105 yards on the year. Cutler just signed an extension, head coach Mark Trestman loves to throw the ball, and the NFC North is full of mediocre defenses. There was nothing that defenses could do to stop these mammoth targets, who made impressive catch after circus catches and so on. Remember, they did that not only with Cutler, but also backup quarterback Josh McCown. McCown was retired and coaching at the high school level, last season he filled in and the 34 year old didn’t try to do too much but give these guys a chance to make a play. Offensive guru or not, Trestman just wants Cutler to put some air under the ball, simply because they can be double-covered and still come down with the catch. This is the best receiving tandem in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas
Julio Jones is the more talented receiver at this point in time, while Roddy White has been a gem throughout the past decade. Jones has been hampered with nagging foot injuries, that limited him to only playing 5 games last season. He had the best start of his short career, averaging 8 catches for 116 yards in those handful of games. White was also banged up a year ago, but managed to play through injury. It was however, the first time since 2006 that the 32 year old did not record 1,000 yards in a season. Coming into the year, White is the possession receiver and Jones is the deep threat. Granted, these studs can do it all, those are their roles so-to-speak. And as Tony Gonzalez retires with his sights on the Hall of Fame one day, these guys will be leaned on even more, along with Harry Douglas. He was the lone bright spot for Matt Ryan in a season the Falcons would like to forget. Douglas stepped in in the absence of Jones, as the main receiver with White hindered, and the beneficiary of Gonzalez’s double-coverage. He notched the 1,000 yard milestone for the first time in his career, and enters 2014 with a prominent role in the slot, and most likely getting Gonzalez’s vacated targets. Ryan zeroed in on Douglas for 85 receptions, including three games over the century mark.
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown
Many in camp believe the torch has already been passed from Larry Fitzgerald to Michael Floyd. Fitz is coming off consecutive seasons that he didn’t reach 1,000 yards, although he did lead the team with 82 catches and 10 scores. Heading into the final year of his contract, some think it may be the 31 year old’s last year with the team. That is unless, he accepts a “hometown discount.” He still caught 954 yards but only a pair of 100 yard outputs. Floyd broke out in his sophomore season, snatching 66 passes for a team high, 1,054 yards. He too, had a couple of triple-digit performances and ended up with 5 touchdowns in 2013. The reporters in camp have suggested that Floyd has become the #1 target for gunslinger Carson Palmer. Rookie John Brown has played strong in camp and projects as the #3 receiver entering 2014. GM Steve Keim sees Boldin-like potential, elaborating that he hasn’t seen a rookie wideout do what this kid has done in a small sample size. Supposedly, Brown is making enough of an impact to earn him more snaps than originally thought. After all, the 3rd round pick is learning the ropes from the top two guys, both former first rounders. Another thing going in his favor is that head coach, Bruce Arians, helped orchestrate offenses involving T.Y. Hilton and Mike Wallace who are of similar build and skill set.
Indianapolis Colts: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton
If not for a knee injury in 2013, Reggie Wayne was in line to top the 1,000 yard mark for the 9th time. With the challenge of returning from injury at 35 years of age, Wayne is confident to return as Andrew Luck’s go-to guy. Perhaps he’s optimistic about teammate T.Y. Hilton, who broke out a bit after he went down. Hilton recorded 82 receptions for nearly 1,100 yards, with a handful of touchdowns and as many triple-digit games. There’s not many receivers, aside from those that were already listed above, that can rack up over 200 yards of offense. Hilton did so in front of the world in that playoff comeback against the Chiefs with 13-224-2.
San Francisco 49ers: Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree
Even the 49ers know how much Anquan Boldin has left in the tank, rewarding the 33 year old with a 2-year extension. Just when the league thought Boldin was on the decline after three straight seasons under 1,000 yards, he quickly became Colin Kaepernick’s featured target. Whether or not it was due to Michael Crabtree’s injuries, he not Vernon Davis, was leaned on in the passing game and led the team with 85-1179-7. It was the 6th time he eclipsed 1,000 yards, something Crabtree has done once in four years of an injury-riddled start to his career. The potential was flashed and he could sure benefit in a way that Julio Jones is hoping, by shaking off the injury bug.
Minnesota Vikings: Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson
Greg Jennings used to be a Pro Bowl wideout as a member of the Packers, where he went for 1,00 yards for three consecutive seasons. Last season he finished strong with 68-804-4, after team made the change from Christian Ponder to Matt Cassel. The veteran Cassel quickly established a comfort with Jennings, something that could catch people’s attention as they begin the year starting together in Norv Turner’s new vertical-oriented offense. Cordarrelle Patterson bursted onto the scene in the ladder parts of 2013. He was used as a dual-threat, Minnesota just wanted to give him the ball in space whether it was throwing to him or handing it off. Moving forward from a 7 touchdown season, Patterson is expected to be unleashed in Turner’s offense much like Josh Gordon was in Cleveland last year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans
Rookie Mike Evans his the same measurables as his predecessor. Bucs coach Lovie Smith drafted Alshon Jeffery in his last season in Chicago, pairing him with Marshall as you read in the first paragraph. Attempting to bring another dynamic duo to Tampa, the plan appears that they’re trying to emulate that Bears strategy by drafting Evans in the first round and bringing Josh McCown aboard. Evans has been lining up outside and in the slot. Vincent Jackson has lined up all over the field to get mismatches throughout his career. With five 1,000 yard campaigns under his belt, including the past three seasons. VJ is consistently in the 7-9 touchdown range and good for 4-5 triple-digit performances each year.