Who Are the Top Receiving Targets for Rookie QBs Heading into Regular Season?
We've entered uncharted waters in the National Football League, as no fewer than five teams will start rookie quarterbacks in 2012, a first in the modern history of the NFL.
Each of those first-year signal-callers will no doubt experience growing pains, and those bumps in the road can be lessened by that passer's receiving targets stepping up their games and taking pressure off the youngsters under center.
Here's a look at the top targets on those teams and what each rookie quarterback's receiving corps brings to the table.
Robert Griffin, Washington Redskins
Top Targets: Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Fred Davis
Of all the rookie quarterbacks on this list, Washington's Robert Griffin probably has the best stable of receiving targets at his disposal.
The team signed fifth-year wide receiver Pierre Garcon in the offseason after a career year in Indianapolis in 2011, and Garcon and Griffin appear to have already established a strong rapport.
There's also veteran wide receiver Santana Moss, and while the 12th-year pro's best football may be behind him, Moss brings a great deal of experience of four 1,000-yard seasons to the Redskins offense.
Griffin also has an excellent tight end to fall back on as a "release valve" in Fred Davis, who appeared well on his way to joining the elite options at his position a year ago before a suspension wiped out his last four games.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Top Targets: Reggie Wayne, Donald Brown, Coby Fleener
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was the first overall pick in April's NFL draft, and if the preseason has been any indication Luck is as about as NFL-ready as you could ask a first-year passer to be.
However, the same can't necessarily be said about his receiving corps.
Granted, five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne is still in town, but outside of Wayne there's not much in the way of proven options in Indianapolis.
Luck will no doubt lean heavily on dump-offs to running back Donald Brown and former Stanford teammate Coby Fleener while hoping that either Austin Collie or Donnie Avery can avoid the injuries that have plagued them throughout their NFL careers and step up at the second wideout spot.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Top Targets: Reggie Bush, Davone Bess
The Miami Dolphins aren't making things any easier on rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The Dolphins wide receiver situation is as bad as any in the National Football League, as top wideout Davone Bess would probably be the third receiver at best on many NFL teams.
In fact, Miami's top passing target is probably running back Reggie Bush, and that doesn't really bode well for the vertical passing attack.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Top Targets: Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, Ben Watson
Poor Brandon Weeden.
If I didn't know better I'd think the Cleveland Browns were setting up the 28-year-old rookie to fail, as calling any of the Browns' receivers "top targets" is something of a misnomer.
No. 1 wide receiver Greg Little can't catch, Massaquoi can't stay on the field, Watson's over the hill, and wide receivers Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin are raw rookies.
Joe Montana would have a tough time succeeding with this bunch.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Top Targets: Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Zach Miller
Quarterback Russell Wilson has been one of the big stories of the preseason, as the third-round pick posted rock-solid numbers and surprisingly emerged as the Seahawks' Week 1 starter under center.
The cupboard isn't exactly bare in the Seattle receiving corps, but there are as many questions as answers.
No. 1 wide receiver Sidney Rice has battled injuries since coming to the Emerald City, and the team is still waiting for Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin or Ben Obomanu to assert themselves and grab the No. 2 spot by the horns.
The Seahawks also have a pair of solid tight ends in Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow, but they're of precious little use to Wilson if a porous offensive line forces them to stay in and help with blocking like Miller had to a year ago.