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
"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."
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
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.