Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson are a dangerous combination
Over the years, the NFL has evolved from the "pound-the-rock" approach to the pass-happy league of today. Very rarely do you see teams run and pass at a 50-50 clip. Legendary San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh and his West Coast offense was a major influence in the transition from the conservative run approach towards a passing league.
His theory of substituting short passes for running plays and utilizing the intermediate routes to open up the deep ball revolutionized the game. The better the quarterback and wide receivers are, the better you can execute this offense.
There are a ton of good quarterbacks and wide receivers out there. But which of these quarterbacks have a talented, productive receiver and which of these wideouts have a top-flight quarterback throwing them the ball?
Let's take a look at the top five quarterback/wide receiver tandems in the league today.
*All stats were recorded in 2010.
Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson, PHI: 42 Rec, 985 Yds, 5 TDs (12 games)
This tandem is unquestionably the most explosive in the league. Their 23.5 average yards per connection was a league best. Vick's big arm combined with Jackon's blazing speed makes this combination as dangerous as any in the league. Expect even bigger numbers this season as Jackson looks to be more consistent and Vick tries to stay healthy.
Philip Rivers to Vincent Jackson, SD: 14 Rec, 248 Yds, 3 TDs (5 games)
Vincent Jackson sat out the first 10 games due to a contract dispute. We all know how good Rivers is but Jackson's absence last season is what kept me from putting this tandem in the top five. Rivers has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in each of the past three season and a big reason why is Jackson. In 2009, Jackson's last full season, these guys teamed up for 68 receptions, 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Chargers have settled their dispute with the big-play wideout and he looked good in the first preseason game. I expect a big year from VJax as he once again ascends towards the top of the receiver rankings.
Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace, PIT: 51 Rec, 1,046 Yds, 8 TDs (12 games)
Wallace is budding star and has taken over the role of No. 1 receiver from veteran Hines Ward. Wallace had a big year last season but really turned it on when Roethlisberger came back from a four-game suspension.
A bigger version of DeSean Jackson, Wallace led the AFC with 21 yards per catch last year and should continue to develop into a complete wideout in his third season.
Matt Cassel to Dwayne Bowe, KC: 71 Rec, 1,159 Yds, 15 TDs (15 games)
These guys have been uber productive and it was very difficult to leave them off this list. But Cassel is not on the same level as the rest of these quarterbacks, although he had a fantastic 2010 campaign (27 touchdowns, seven interceptions). These two led the league by hooking up for 15 touchdowns and were the main reason the Chiefs surprised everyone by winning the AFC West.
I'm not sure they can repeat these numbers, but don't sleep on Kansas City this season.
Matt Ryan to Roddy White, ATL: 114 Rec, 1,375 Yds, 10 TDs (16 games)
Matty Ice and "Rowdy" Roddy White have combined to lift the Falcons to elite status in the NFC. Now if they could just win a playoff game, they would move up.
Ryan is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league while White has certified himself as a top five receiver in football with four-straight seasons of 1,150-plus yards. Drafting Julio Jones with the sixth pick will only help take coverage away from White.
Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson, HOU: 86 Rec, 1,216 Yds , 8 TDs (13 games)
Kurt Warner and Torry Holt (a deadly combination in their own right) ranked their top five quarterback/wide receiver combos and inexplicably left these guys off their list.
I understand Schaub is not in the same class as Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, but I think he's just as good as Ryan. What separates these guys from Schaub is that they have all been to the playoffs and (excluding Ryan) won multiple games. Schaub has never made the playoffs. I understand it's not his fault the Texans defense stunk last year, but he's made his share of mistakes.
Johnson has been the best receiver in the league for the last three years and his physicality and strength are unmatched. This connection led the NFL with more than 1,500 yards in '08 and '09 and had 1,216 yards last season, despite Johnson missing three games. The guy is a stud and deserves a chance to grab the spotlight in the postseason.
I think this is the year Houston becomes a playoff team.
Brady of course had a historic year in 2010, throwing nine touchdowns for every interception. Even without Randy Moss (who was traded early in the season), Brady found a way to put up big numbers and lead his team to 14 wins. That said, he relied heavily on the miniature man in the slot to create mismatches and move the chains.
Ever since arriving in Foxboro, Welker has blossomed into the top slot receiver in the NFL. Welker is a nightmare to cover. His quickness in and out of routes is unparalleled and when you have the MVP throwing to you, that's an impossible duo to stop.
Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne, IND: (2010 stats) 111 Rec, 1,355 Yds, 6 TDs (16 games)
What sets these guys apart is that they've been putting up numbers and winning games for nearly a decade. While others have come and gone, Manning and Wayne have stayed remarkably steady, posting seven straight 1,000-yard seasons together. They are both incredibly durable as well. Manning has never missed a game in his 13-year career while Wayne hasn't missed a game since his 2001 rookie season.
Manning did have offseason neck surgery and many wonder if he'll be ready for the opener in Houston.
As long as this lethal combo is on the field, they must be included in the top two and you could easily make the case for No 1. I'm a little concerned about their age (Manning is 35 and Wayne will be 33 in November) and that's why I decided to stick them second.
Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings, GB: 69 Rec, 1,185 Yds, 11 TDs (15 games)
The is the sexy pick and for good reason. Jennings made clutch catches throughout the postseason while Rodgers put the ball in tight windows. Rodgers and Jennings connected 21 times during the postseason and the two really stepped their game in Super Bowl XLV against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense. Jennings scored two touchdowns, including one where he was pummeled by Troy Polamalu but somehow held on. Rodgers' throw was perfect, just beating the safety.
The pair also connected for a huge third-down conversion late in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.
Their relative youth (both players are 27) means they are in their prime, which is why I have them as the No. 1-rated quarterback/wide receiver tandem in the NFL as we head into the 2011 season. Rodgers and Jennings combined for at least 68 completions and 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons to go along with 24 touchdowns.
The Packers are one of the favorites to win it all again this year and a big reason why is this exciting duo.