In today's NFL, an offense must have the ability to put up points quickly. Whether or not that's going to be your "offensive identity" is one thing, but there will come a time in which an offense must quickly move the ball down the field and put points on the board.
The Houston Texans and Denver Broncos finished in the top 10 last season in number of rushing attempts for a team. That might be a surprising fact for some considering Peyton Manning is under center for one of those teams. But both also have an elite combination of quarterback and receiver.
So let's take a look at the top 10 quarterback-receiver combinations in the NFL right now.
Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub are on this list largely due to the ability Johnson possesses at wide receiver. In his 10-year career with the Houston Texans, Johnson has averaged 1,125 yards, seven touchdowns and 81 receptions per season.
Despite bringing down just four touchdowns in 2012, Johnson still managed a career high in yards with 1,598, and his 112 receptions was the second-best total of his career (2008).
Schaub has been a solid but not spectacular quarterback for the Texans during his six seasons in Houston. He has helped lead the Texans to 10-plus wins over the past two seasons. He's also under as much pressure as any quarterback in the NFL to get his team to the playoffs and win games.
The combination of Schaub to Johnson is more heavily reliant on Johnson's ability, but in any case, it's one of the elite combinations in the league right now.
Dez Bryant finished sixth in the NFL in receiving yards last year with 1,382, also adding 12 touchdown receptions.
Besides being one of the most polarizing quarterbacks in the NFL, Tony Romo also finished third in the NFL last year in passing yards with 4,903.
The combination of Romo to Bryant was too much for Jerry Jones to overlook when Bryant was still available at pick No. 24 in the first round of the 2010 draft. The Cowboys needed to trade up from the No. 27 pick with the New England Patriots, but Jones knew the potential was there and he isn't afraid to take a gamble on the wide receiver position.
Bryant has increased his targets, receptions, receiving yards, average yards per reception, touchdowns and number of plays over 20 yards in each of his three NFL seasons.
The combination of Romo to Bryant in 2013 should continue to show why the pairing of these two players, while not always smooth off the field in Bryant's case, has proven to be the right decision for the Cowboys and one of the best duos in the NFL.
Eli Manning is an elite quarterback.
He hasn't led the New York Giants to a losing regular-season record during any full season as a starter in his NFL career. He threw for 3,948 yards and 26 touchdowns last season.
Wide receiver Victor Cruz has exploded onto the scene for the Giants over the last two seasons. He's picked up 2,628 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns during that time and has given Manning another solid weapon outside of Hakeem Nicks.
Cruz knows his value to the Giants, and he's trying to use that as leverage in getting a contract extension. Via Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News:
But there have been no strides made on a contract extension that’s been talked about since the Super Bowl, so Cruz has stayed away. Now on his third agent in two years, he’s skipped the team’s entire voluntary offseason training program, as he and agent Tom Condon have continued to angle for a long-term deal.
The combination of Manning to Cruz has become one of the elite combinations in the NFL. Hopefully football fans will get to see this duo put up more yards and touchdowns next season as they develop into one of the best duos in the entire NFL.
Spoiler alert—this is the only one of these duos that includes players who weren't together in 2012 (Sorry, Dolphins fans).
Sure, Tom Brady and Danny Amendola don't have any game time together yet. But we do know a couple of things about the Patriots that should make you realize this will be one of the elite combinations of quarterback and receiver in 2013.
The first is that Tom Brady is pretty good. He's a Hall of Fame quarterback who's still in his prime, and someone is going to be the recipient and beneficiary of his passes. Second, until we know the extent of tight end Rob Gronkowski's injury, it's safe to assume Amendola will become a much more critical piece of this offense.
In his last five full seasons, Brady has thrown for less than 4,000 yards just one time, and that was in 2010, when he threw for 3,900 yards with 36 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Amendola will be a key to the Patriots offense in 2013, and Brady will again show why whoever his top target at wide receiver is during any given year will be half of an elite quarterback-wide receiver duo in the NFL.
Despite all of the controversy coming out about Josh Freeman and his future as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting quarterback, the combination of Freeman and Vincent Jackson last season was of the elite variety.
Jackson set career highs in receiving yards (1,384) and receptions (72) in 2012. Freeman also set career highs in passing yards (4,065), yards per attempt (7.29) and touchdown passes (27).
The Buccaneers made some headlines this offseason, but most of those had to do with the defensive side of the ball. The trade for Darrelle Revis and the signing Dashon Goldson were the two big moves the Buccaneers made this offseason.
The emergence of Doug Martin at running back has been a welcomed addition to an offense that has shown to have an elite duo in Freeman and Jackson.
Don't expect this pairing to take a step back in 2013.
How smart does Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff look after he made the huge trade for Julio Jones during the 2011 draft?
Jones has been every bit as good as advertised.
In two seasons in Atlanta, Jones has 133 receptions, 2,157 yards and 18 touchdowns. He's also thrown in 33 receptions of at least 20 yards.
Jones is one of the elite young receivers in the NFL, and that's not going to change in 2013. Ryan has thrown for over 4,000 yards each of the last two seasons and has a combined 61 touchdowns and just 26 interceptions during that time.
Ryan and Jones blossomed last season as one of the elite duos in the NFL right now.
Marques Colston has been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the NFL over the past seven seasons.
He's picked up over 1,000 yards receiving in six of his seven NFL seasons and grabbed 58 touchdowns during that time as well. That's not bad production from a former seventh-round pick in the 2006 draft out of Hofstra.
Colston has consistently been Brees' top target since he came into the league, and there's no reason to think this pair will slow down next season.
There wasn't a player who benefited more from an individual perspective when Peyton Manning came to the Denver Broncos than wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
Thomas finished last season with 1,434 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns, including 29 receptions of at least 20 yards. The other side of this duo, Manning, had a typical Manning-like season, with 4,659 yards passing, 37 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.
The addition of Wes Welker to the Broncos this offseason gives Manning a better version of Brandon Stokley in this offense, but that shouldn't affect the production you see from Thomas. He's still the big-play receiver for this offense, and he'll still be the lead option in the passing game.
Manning might only have a couple of seasons left at the rate he's playing right now. During that time, Thomas should continue to emerge as one of the best young receivers in the game.
This duo should light it up again in 2013.
Calvin Johnson is the best wide receiver in the NFL.
He'd make just about any quarterback look like an elite NFL starter. Sure, it helps that he's 6'5", 236 pounds and has fantastic hands. Those hands helped him bring in 1,964 yards receiving last year and 1,681 yards in 2011.
Despite only grabbing five touchdowns last season, Johnson picked up 16 in 2011 and should have a bounce-back year in terms of touchdowns next season. As should his quarterback.
The other side of this duo is quarterback Matt Stafford. Stafford didn't have the kind of season he'd have liked last season in terms of wins or touchdown passes. After throwing 41 touchdowns in 2011, Stafford responded by throwing for just 20 in 2012. He still threw for almost 5,000 yards and attempted a career-high number of passes in 2012 with 727.
Anytime you have a player like Calvin Johnson split out wide for you, you're going to be part of a duo that's among the best in the NFL.
Johnson is simply that good.
The top quarterback-wide receiver duo heading into the 2013 season is Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb.
Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL, and Cobb will again be his top target in 2013. Cobb finished the 2012 season with just 954 yards receiving and eight touchdowns, but with the departure of Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings and the continued emergence of Cobb into this offense, this duo is poised for a breakout season.
Rodgers threw for over 4,200 yards with 39 touchdowns and just eight interceptions last season. He attempted a career-high number of passes (552) and completed 67.2 percent of them.
While Rodgers-to-Cobb might not have the statistical backing as some of these other top duos, there's not a more dangerous or talented pair of players in the NFL at these respective positions. Expect a big year out of Cobb, and expect more of what we've become accustomed to with Rodgers, as he'll again show why he's the best in the NFL.