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Lee Jenkins
December 10, 2007
Wayne's World In Marvin Harrison's absence, longtime No. 2 receiver Reggie Wayne has kept the Colts' passing game clicking
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December 10, 2007

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Wayne's World
In Marvin Harrison's absence, longtime No. 2 receiver Reggie Wayne has kept the Colts' passing game clicking

REGGIE WAYNE was listing the remaining healthy members of the Colts' ravaged receiving corps—Anthony Gonzalez, Craphonso Thorpe, Devin Aromashodu—when he turned to the lanky stranger dressing at the locker next to him at the RCA Dome on Sunday. "Devin A-ro-ma-sho-du," he said again, sounding out the syllables. "That is your name, isn't it?"

Six years after Wayne arrived in Indianapolis and three years after his first 1,000-yard season, the 2001 first-round pick out of Miami is finally the No. 1 target for Peyton Manning. Never mind that Wayne gained such status because All-Pro Marvin Harrison suffered a sprained left knee on Sept. 30 and has been mostly out of action since then. Even after Harrison returns, Wayne will likely be the lead receiver.

"In my eyes Reggie was always the guy," says tight end Dallas Clark. "Marvin is a great player, and when both of them are on the field, people talk about Marvin. But there are things Reggie does that make me a better player."

Indianapolis wideouts had nine catches in an important 28--25 victory over AFC South rival Jacksonville on Sunday—and Wayne made eight of them, for 158 yards and a touchdown. Of course he had put up big numbers in previous years, but they were often discounted because Harrison had occupied so much of the defense's attention. With Harrison out of the lineup, teams have keyed on Wayne, and he has punished them anyway.

There were signs that Wayne may have been on his way to supplanting Harrison even before the latter got hurt. In five games this year Harrison uncharacteristically did not reach 100 receiving yards in any of them; Wayne has surpassed 100 yards five times in 12 games. Coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance last season, Wayne appears a cinch for his second; Harrison might miss Honolulu for the first time in 10 years.

Such is the natural order in the NFL. Harrison is 35, Wayne 29. The Colts still believe Harrison has productive years left, but a gradual drop-off should not affect the offense deeply. Wayne has proved he can handle the extra coverage that goes with being Manning's primary option, and Harrison will benefit from softer coverage.

Wayne insists he's playing as he always has, only with a bit more attention paid him by defenses. "It's no different," he said. "I look at it as though [ Harrison] is still over there."

But Manning hinted at a subtle change in Wayne's role. Three times against the Jaguars, Manning threw to Wayne on third-and-one. All three times Indy converted. "Reggie is a playmaker now," Manning says. "You have to look for a guy like him on third downs. You feel good, you trust him. He's going to be in the right spot and make the catch."

Wayne is also doing the little things that are expected of No. 1 receivers. After his touchdown catch on Sunday, a 48-yard rope from Manning in the first quarter, he went right to Gonzalez. "The defense will start rolling my way," Wayne told the rookie. "It's your turn now." On the next possession Gonzalez made a 22-yard catch that set up another TD.

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