Wayne becomes newest weapon for Colts
Reggie Wayne has finally given the Colts something they've lacked -- a consistent complement to Marvin Harrison.
The process begins at 7:30 a.m. on Monday.
Tom Moore, the Indianapolis Colts' offensive coordinator, arrives at the team's West 56th Street offices and starts breaking down the tape of Sunday's game. Later, there's a two-hour meeting with the players to go over that tape, then an in-depth study of the next opponent into the evening. On Tuesday morning, Moore starts with the protections, then moves on to the running plays and, finally, the passing game.
But the job Moore, 64, does is anything but routine. This is Moore's 27th season in the NFL and his 17th as an offensive coordinator. He is, as Craig Kelley, the Colts vice president of public relations, says, "the wizard behind the curtain." The pieces he moves around on the chessboard are a dazzling collection of weapons: quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and running back Edgerrin James.
"I have a great job," Moore said. "To me, it's fun -- and exciting. It is very challenging."
In Pittsburgh, Moore worked with Hall of Fame players Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Terry Bradshaw and won two Super Bowl rings. He designed plays for future Hall of Famer Barry Sanders in Detroit and has been the architect in Indianapolis in each of Manning's six seasons. It is not a complete stretch to imagine Manning, Harrison and, possibly, James with bronze busts in Canton, Ohio one day.
They have all thrown up sensational numbers, but now a fourth name is threatening to transform the dynamic trio into a daunting quartet.
Reggie Wayne, as the late, great "The Price is Right" announcer Rod Roddy used to say, "Come on down!"
Harrison and Wayne have combined for 11 touchdowns in seven games -- the NFL's best total for a wide receiving duo -- and 81 catches and 1,141 yards. Only Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce of the St. Louis Rams, with 91 catches and 1,377 yards, have more.
"We're blessed with a lot of talent," explained Wayne early Wednesday morning from the team's complex. "Teams are picking their poison. Practices are fun because at any point in time, whoever gets the ball in their hands, we can do something big with it."
Said Moore: "It's a game of weapons, and we have the total package working for us. The tight ends are involved, the running backs. The running game, the passing game -- it's a whole composite of everything.
"It all kind of fits."
With Manning calling signals and running back James healthy again after a three-game absence, it can be argued that the Colts have the most complete and diverse offense in the league -- although the Rams, Vikings, Chiefs and Giants might all beg to differ. Indianapolis is scoring 29.7 points per game, second to Kansas City (30.8) and is fourth in yards per game (354.9), behind the Rams (379.4), Vikings (371.9) and Giants (366.4).
At 6-1, the Colts are off to their best start in 26 seasons and staying one-half game ahead of Tennessee in the AFC South. Sunday's game against Miami is a clash of titans, as it were, with the Dolphins at a robust 5-2.
Harrison, at 6-foot, 175 pounds, is the only receiver in NFL history with four consecutive 100-catch seasons and seems destined to make it five straight. Despite a relatively slow start, he has 49 catches for 687 yards and six touchdowns. Given his gifts of soft hands and elusiveness, this is hardly surprising.
Wayne, on the other hand, has been a revelation. At 6-foot, 203 pounds, he is more of a threat than Harrison after he catches the ball -- it's just that his opportunities the past two seasons have been few. This season, Wayne has 32 catches for 454 yards and five touchdowns.
After an NFL-record 143 catches last year, Harrison caught only 16 passes and averaged a mere 8.4 yards per catch through three games, but Wayne helped carry the Colts to 3-0. With teams electing to use two defensive backs to cover Harrison, Wayne bagged a career-high 10 catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts' 23-13 victory over Jacksonville in Week 3.
When teams started to account for Wayne, Harrison went off. His next two games were completely over the top:
Harrison's four-game totals were 33 catches, 553 yards and five touchdowns, but somewhere in there -- beginning with the Carolina game, the Colts' only loss -- Manning started finding Wayne again. In last Sunday's win against the Texans, Wayne emerged with six catches for 96 yards and two critical touchdowns.
The numbers are coming in bunches for Wayne. In the Sept. 21 victory over Jacksonville, he had nine catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the second half alone. The fans at the RCA Dome chanted his name: Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie.
"A couple of guys were teasing me about it," Wayne said after the game "They were saying when they started yelling 'Reg-gie,' everybody looked at the exit sign to see if Reggie Miller walked into the stadium.
"It's wasn't Reggie Miller today. It was Reggie Wayne, so I'm going to enjoy it for one day."
Balance of power
Back when the New York Giants were at the height of their game, winning two Super Bowls in 1986 and 1990, defensive coordinator Bill Belichick liked to say that if a team had one pass rusher, it had no pass rushers. Even linebacker Lawrence Taylor, in a vacuum, could be managed with double- and triple-teams. But by adding Leonard Marshall, a credible pass-rushing defensive end, the Giants could always get heat on the opposing quarterback; the opponent didn't have enough blockers to shut down both players. If you have two pass rushers, Belichick's reasoning went, you effectively had two pass rushers.
The same basically is true of offensive tackles, cornerbacks -- and wide receivers.
Moore coached Swann and Stallworth for six seasons in Pittsburgh (1977-82) and their numbers were, considering that the run was more of an emphasis, impressive. In 1979, the two combined for 111 catches and 1,991 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Detroit Lions didn't win any Super Bowls, but when Moore was the offensive coordinator there in 1995 records were broken. Herman Moore and Brett Perriman made the Lions the first team in NFL history to have a pair of receivers with 100 catches each. Moore (123 catches, 1,686 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Perriman (108 catches, 1,488 yards and 9 touchdowns) combined for a record 3,174 yards. And to think, Scott Mitchell was the quarterback.
|Holt and Bruce||Rams||91 rec., 1,377 yds., 9 TDs|
|Harrison and Wayne||Colts||81 rec., 1,141 yds., 11 TDs|
|Ward and Burress||Steelers||75 rec., 1,023 yds., 6 TDs|
|Owens and Streets||49ers||75 rec., 998 yds., 7 TDs|
|Warrick and Johnson||Bengals||73 rec., 1,027 yds., 8 TDs|
|Toomer and Hilliard||Giants||67 rec., 950 yds., 7 TDs|
|Moulds and Shaw||Bills||67 rec., 889 yds., 3 TDs|
"It helps," he said, laughing. "I've always been a personnel guy, and they're great players, great players all of them.
"With Marvin and Reggie, they complement each other."
Moore, like most coordinators, is cagey when it comes to details.
"People change their coverages," Moore said. "I don't know as a rule that (Harrison) gets doubled all the time. It's a situation where you try to locate your receivers in different positions. They (the defense) have got to find them and adjust their coverages. I don't know the percentages."
Is it safe to say that Wayne is getting more attention?
"Yeah," Moore said. "I would say it's safe to say."
Doesn't that make it easier for Harrison?
"It complements and helps him -- easy isn't quite the right word," Moore said. "There's nothing easy about it, but it throws a little bit of a different aspect to it. It's still hard. These guys are both tremendous professionals. Working with Peyton, the results have been good."
This is the sort of production the Colts envisioned when they drafted Wayne in 2001. When defense was a pressing priority, Indianapolis used its first draft pick, No. 30 overall, for the wideout who had started all four years at Miami and finished as the school's all-time leading receiver with 173 catches, more than Michael Irvin and Lamar Thomas.
Wayne was slowed by ankle and knee injuries as a rookie, catching only 27 passes for 345 yards and no touchdowns. Last year, he was the third wide receiver, playing behind Qadry Ismail. In seven starts, Wayne caught 49 passes for 716 yards and four touchdowns.
Since the offseason workouts, Wayne, 24, has been hearing a lot about the two-is-better-than-one theory.
"Most definitely," Wayne said. "That's something we've been preaching all offseason. Coach Moore keeps saying 'We're putting a lot on your shoulders.'
"The first year, I was haunted with injuries. Last year, I was the third receiver. So I've had more opportunities this year. The more reps you get, the more comfortable you feel. You start to play your game. It's clicking.
"It's going to be up to me to get the double-team off Marv. If you want to double-team me, you got Marv. If you want to double-team Marv, you've got me. If we can protect, somebody's going to be open. They try to disguise it, but Peyton has done a great job recognizing things, keeping them on heels."
Indeed, Manning, who has been selected for three Pro Bowls, has never played better. Last Sunday against Houston, Manning completed 22 of 30 for 269 yards and three touchdowns.
"He's in a zone," said tight end Marcus Pollard. "You've got to be Ray Charles not to see that. The guy's throwing bombs and touchdowns, getting us in the right play, audibling and not getting sacked."
|“||The first year, I was haunted with injuries. Last year, I was the third receiver. So I've had more opportunities this year. The more reps you get, the more comfortable you feel. You start to play your game. It's clicking. ”|
|— Colts WR Reggie Wayne|
"What's happening," said head coach Tony Dungy, "is Peyton is developing more confidence in the entire team, the defense, the other receivers. He's relaxing a little more."
Manning's long-standing chemistry with Harrison seems now to extend to Wayne. A pump-and-go move allowed Wayne to blow past Texans cornerback Reggie Howard for a 57-yard touchdown. Earlier, subtle signals between the two resulted in a 2-yard scoring play. A look from Manning at the line of scrimmage, signifying a "back shoulder throw," means that Manning will purposely throw behind Wayne on his way through the end zone.
"We work on that all the time," Wayne explained. "I look at Peyton and when he wants it, he kind of gives me that look. You've got to be ready for it."
Before the season, Manning saw it coming.
"Last year we saw flashes of his greatness," Manning said. "It's just a matter of him doing those things every single week. There's no question he'll be a big factor for us this year."
The bottom-line numbers indicate it's true. Minnesota's Randy Moss has the league's best touchdown/catch ratio with eight touchdowns in 46 catches (17.4 percent). Wayne, fantasy football fans, is second with (15.6), ahead of the Rams' Holt (15.4), the Bengals' Chad Johnson (14.3), Joe Horn of the Saints (13.3) and even Harrison (12.2).
Factor in the other weapons available to Manning -- starting tight end Pollard (18-206-1), rookie tight end Dallas Clark (17-162-1) and third wideout Troy Walters (14-166) -- and you can see why opposing defenses are apprehensive when they step on the field.
And there's more bad news: James seems to be back. After he missed those three games with two fractured transverse process bones in his back, James carried 23 times against Houston for 104 yards.
Wayne was asked why he and Harrison have both managed to flourish the last two games.
"The run," Wayne said. "Listen, our bag is the play action. If we can get safeties to take two or three steps forward, it gives us a chance to do some damage.
"If we can get out running game going, it just won't be fair."
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Fathead Reggie Wayne Wall Graphic