7 Points: Wayne's World

WR Reggie Wayne (AP Photo/Chris Park)

Why won't the Colts miss Marvin Harrison? Which teams should be making a run at signing Edgerrin James? Has Bills RB Marshawn Lynch made yet another mistake? Is there a new nightmare looming for Packers fans? Scout.com's Ed Thompson answers those questions and more in his latest 7 Points feature.

Point 1: Long before the Colts released wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis was already Wayne's World.

Although Harrison was often and deservedly mentioned in the same breath with receivers of the caliber of Jerry Rice and Cris Carter during his career, Reggie Wayne has been Peyton Manning's favorite target over the past two seasons. And quite honestly, the Colts won't miss a beat without the 13-year veteran.

Drafted in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft, Wayne was targeted to be paired up with Harrison, Indy's undisputed No. 1 receiver. A fast, sure-handed physical receiver who tacks on extra yards after the catch, Wayne complemented Harrison's style that featured plenty of quick slants and smooth-striding deep routes.

After Wayne posted more receiving yards and nearly the number of catches that Harrison logged in 2004, he proved that he deserved "1b" status instead of being referenced as the team's No. 2 receiver. But the fact of the matter is that over the past five seasons, Wayne has been the Colts' most productive receiver, catching 432 passes for 6,230 yards and 42 scores versus Harrison's 343 catches for 4,508 yards and 45 touchdowns. During that stretch, Wayne didn't miss a single start while Harrison sat out 13 games.

Wayne is now the veteran who will lead a receiver corps that includes third-year receiver Anthony Gonzales as the No. 2 receiver. Second-year speedster Pierre Garcon, rookie Austin Collie—a focused and determined pass-catcher out of BYU—and third-year veteran Roy Hall should battle it out for the No. 3 spot during training camp. And the Colts will undoubtedly slide tight end Dallas Clark out into the slot frequently to take advantage of his ability to exploit the middle of the field.

The offense will benefit from the return of starting left guard Ryan Lilja, who missed the entire 2008 season due to injury. They'll also get a boost from the return of former Michigan running back Mike Hart and the addition of rookie running back Donald Brown, the nation's leading rusher in college football last year. So expect to see significant improvement from an Indianapolis rushing attack that finished 31st in the league last year, averaging just 79.6 rushing yards per game. 

With a more balanced offensive attack, Wayne could post another 100-yard-plus catches and 1,500 receiving yards like he did in 2007.

Point 2: Two teams should do a reality check and move quickly to add running back Edgerrin James to their roster.


Edgerrin James walks off the field following the NFC Championship game in 2009.
Getty Images/Jamie Squire

Although I really applaud the Bengals' pickup of former Rutgers running back Brian Leonard for depth at the running back position, it's hard to believe that they would rely on the highly unreliable Cedric Benson at the top of their depth chart. And Seattle hasn't put forth a convincing argument that they have a solid situation at running back with former-Cowboy Julius Jones backed up by T.J. Duckett.

In ten starts last season, Benson only averaged 3.5 yards per carry and ran for just two touchdowns. In Seattle, Jones averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 10 starts and 15 game appearances, but he scored just two rushing touchdowns and was highly erratic from week to week. Meanwhile, Duckett averaged just 2.8 yards per carry last year.

There's little doubt that James would be an immediate upgrade for both clubs with his experience and skill set. During his first two seasons in Arizona, he rushed for no less than 1,100 yards per season. Despite his role being reduced in 2008, he averaged 3.9 yards per carry during the postseason against some top-notch defenses to help the Cardinals earn a Super Bowl appearance.

But time is slipping by, and James should get his nose in a playbook soon if he wants to make an impact with a new team in 2009.

Point 3: Just three months after his latest run-in with the law, Buffalo running back Marshawn Lynch has screwed up again.

It was disappointing to learn that Lynch has appealed his three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy, despite his previous public statements that indicated he was serious about taking responsibility for past misjudgments and cleaning up his act. 

The saddest part of the situation is that Lynch appeared to be sincere back in March, but personal insecurity about holding on to the starter's job may be creeping in and taking priority over repairing his tarnished image.

Back in February, Lynch was arrested in California after police searched his car and found a 9mm semiautomatic handgun in the trunk. Following the arrest, he entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor gun charge and was sentenced to three years of probation and 80 hours of community service. 

Lynch was also involved in a hit-and-run incident a year ago in Buffalo, but was not disciplined in any way by the league. This time, he anticipated a suspension for his actions. 

"I'll find out in about 10 days, but just from the situations that happened with me before, and people kind of felt that I skated off with not being suspended, I do, for me, I honestly see a suspension coming. But that comes with the consequences," he said during a March 18 press conference.

Through his comments and presence at that press conference, it appeared that Lynch was growing up a bit, accepting full responsibility for his actions and whatever fate NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would impose. But after the Bills added former Colts running back Dominic Rhodes to the roster in late April, and the team followed that up by signing talented backup Fred Jackson to a four-year contract extension this week, Lynch's appeal begs the question of how sincere he really is about accepting responsibility for his off-the-field misjudgments.

"Well, I can only show you. It won't be anything that I can say in words that'll make you a believer, so you're just going to have to see for yourself," he said during his March press conference.

Unfortunately, Lynch isn't off to a very good start.

Point 4: For Packers fans, there's only one nightmare that would top Brett Favre trotting out onto Lambeau Field in 2009 wearing the purple and white of the Minnesota Vikings.

Like many of you, I've grown weary of the speculation about Brett Favre possibly heading to Minnesota. And while that would certainly be a bittersweet event for Packers fans, it could certainly turn into a full-blown nightmare if former Packers head coach Mike Holmgren walked out of the tunnel at Lambeau Field in 2010 right behind Favre as Minnesota's head coach.


Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren
Getty Images/Otto Greule, Jr.

During a radio interview with Dave Mahler of KJR 950 AM this week, Holmgren made it clear that after taking a one-year breather from his ten-year stint with the Seattle Seahawks, he'd welcome the opportunity to return to the NFL next year.

 "[I'll] take the year off and after next season is over, I plan to go back to work," he said.

While he could return as a general manager, it's likely that a number of teams would court Holmgren to be their head coach. And with Brad Childress' situation in Minnesota, the Vikings could certainly be one of them, especially if Favre commits to a multi-year deal with the team and gets to provide some input on the decision.

Entering his fourth season as the head coach of the Vikings, Childress can point to gradual improvement of the team as a measurement of his success. The club has posted records of 6-10, 8-8 and 10-6 since his arrival. Last season, they qualified for the playoffs as the NFC North champion, but were knocked out by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round. So Childress enters the season with a 24-24 regular-season record.

If he can take the Vikings into the playoffs again this year, his job will likely be secure. But if they regress, Holmgren would certainly be a compelling option for Minnesota in 2010. 

Point 5: If he can stay healthy this year, Cowboys running back Felix Jones will emerge as a key to Dallas' success this season.

So let's come clean, here. How many of you even remembered the adrenaline-rush moments that Jones provided last year before injury problems ended his rookie campaign prematurely? 

When provided with rushing opportunities in five of Dallas' first six contests last year, the exciting rookie averaged at least 7.3 yards per carry in four of those games and scored three touchdowns. His overall average on his 30 attempts was 8.9 yards per carry. 

Prior to be sidelined by a hamstring pull during the sixth game of the year, Jones also returned 16 kickoffs for an average of 27.1 yards, including a 98-yard scamper for a touchdown.

The team's first-round selection out of Arkansas and the 22nd pick overall in the 2008 NFL Draft had nearly completed his rehab from the hamstring injury when he injured his toe, forcing him to have season-ending surgery to repair the ligament damage. But the 6-foot tall, 212-pound Jones recently said that he's fully healed and ready to go. And reports indicate that he's been hitting the weight room hard and looks bigger and stronger than ever.

That's really bad news for the Cowboys' NFC East rivals, especially when you consider the fact that Dallas also has another battering-ram in their backfield by the name of Marion Barber.    

Point 6: No matter whether it's Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson taking the snaps in Cleveland, neither one should be able to blame a sub-par performance on the Browns wide receivers this season.

Cleveland has really spiffed-up their wide receiver corps during the offseason, providing their quarterbacks with quality targets for the 2009 season. 

At the start of the 2008 season, the wide receiver depth chart included Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius, Donte' Stallworth, Tim Carter, Travis Wilson and Joshua Cribbs. Today, only Edwards, Stallworth and Cribbs, a fifth-year veteran out of Kent State, are still on the roster. But with Stallworth facing a DUI manslaughter charge, Cleveland knows they can't count on him to return this year, nor have they decided if they want him back even if he somehow avoids jail time.


Braylon Edwards on the run in 2008
Getty Images/Drew Hallowell

Recognizing their talent deficit at the position beyond Edwards, the Browns added journeyman receiver David Patten to the roster as a free agent. Patten has played for five NFL teams over the past twelve years, including a one-year assignment in Cleveland back in 2000. Then they added former Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie, a highly-intelligent player who uses his route-running skills very effectively, in the second round of the NFL Draft with the 36th pick overall, . And they followed that up in the same round by selecting Georgia receiver Mohammed Massaquoi, a sure-handed receiver who runs clean routes and who has a knack for finding the soft spots in the opponent's defense.

Cleveland made another move that could pay off big through the addition of veteran Mike Furrey, who grabbed 98 passes for 1,086 yards in 2006 and 61 more for 664 yards in 2007 while playing for Detroit. Prior to suffering a season-ending concussion during Week 10, Furrey was a reserve for the 0-16 Lions, but he can still provide some valuable veteran depth along with Patten while Robiskie and Massaquoi work on hitting their stride at the pro level. 

Edwards finished the 2008 season with a team-leading 55 catches for 873 yards and three scores, but once Robiskie and Massaquoi get rolling as well, his numbers should improve while teams try to figure out how to effectively cover all three threats.

Point 7: It's refreshing to see a pair of rookies so eager earn their roster spots that they signed their contracts less than three weeks after being drafted.

After talking with both players during the pre-draft period, I wasn't the least bit surprised to see former University of Pittsburgh linebacker Scott McKillop and former LSU defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois sign a contract with the 49ers before training camp opened. But seeing both of them sign just three weeks after being drafted was an eye-opener that sent a very positive message about both of these young men.

During my three interviews with McKillop, a tackling machine who used his great football instincts to make 137 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss, and four sacks during his senior year, it was obvious that he couldn't wait to compete for his spot on an NFL roster.

"Whether it's depth at linebacker or just playing special teams, I'm more than willing to do whatever I can for the team and just hope for the best," he said during a phone call shortly after the the NFL Draft.

It was also evident that Ricky Jean-Francois, an underclassman who has plenty of upside and raw talent, wants to focus on landing a job with the team rather than being distracted by contract negotiations. A proven run-stuffer, the former LSU Tiger has startling quickness at the snap for a  6-foot-3, 295-pound lineman.

"I'm one of the quickest guys off the ball," he said during a pre-draft phone interview. "That's always my goal, to be the first lineman to move. Most people think I guess, but I don't guess. I don't go off the snap count, I don't need to hear the quarterback. I just need to know when the person in front of me or anyone I can see is moving. 

"If I can beat the offensive lineman off the ball, I'm going to destroy him, hands down." 

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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Or contact him by email through this link.

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