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    SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/200...ers/index.html

    In 2002 I worked on a short animated film called The Mechanics of a Seven-Man Officiating Crew for the NFL officials group . The genesis of this straight-to-video masterpiece was the proliferation of multi-receiver sets.

    The NFL officiating standard is that at least one set of eyes has to be on each receiver downfield, which is harder when more offensive players come downfield from seemingly different places on every play.

    One of the reasons for the timing of the video was the success of the "Greatest Show on Turf," the Rams' record-setting offense at the turn of the century (the 20th century into 21st century -- the forward pass wasn't even legal at the previous turn of the century). St. Louis offensive coordinator and later head coach Mike Martz used Az-Zahir Hakim as a potent weapon at third receiver, along with several other innovative sets, to keep defenses and officials off balance.

    But let's take a step back. Although he might tell you differently, Martz wasn't the first to use multiple formations so successfully. According to SI.com's resident football strategy expert, Paul Zimmerman, the multi-receiver phenomenon had its roots in the early '80s.

    After a series of rule changes instituted to increase scoring (illegal chucks, less strict application of offensive holding, no stickum, etc.), coaches started to expand their passing games.

    In 1981, Joe Gibbs' Redskins switched to a one-running back set and their offense took off. Gibbs inverted traditional logic by softening the defense with the passing game to open up the running game, and he used three talented receivers -- Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders -- to do this. Dr. Z rattled off dozen nicknames for the Redskins' multi-receiver attack -- Trips, Spaghetti, Bunch, the Snake. (He was simultaneously discussing lunch with the Flaming Redhead, so perhaps I misunderstood some of the names). Whatever you called it, the 'Skins' gameplan caught defenses off guard. With all those talented receivers running around, defenses had to lay back to guard the pass, allowing RB John Riggins to go wild.

    Not long after Gibbs started winning Super Bowls, the run-and-shoot offense came into vogue, featuring one back, four receivers and no tight ends. Jim Kelly's Houston Gamblers rewrote the thin volume that is the USFL record book in 1984. NFL teams such as the Oilers, Bills and Lions followed in the late '80s and early '90s with their wide-open passing game. Then defenses adjusted. They figured out ways to rush the passer effectively, causing turnovers and plenty of pain for the quarterback. And the illegal-chuck rule, while still on the books, wasn't called as regularly, allowing defensive backs to become very physical.

    The run and shoot basically ran a fade pattern in the mid-90s. Instead of lining up all kinds of receivers, coordinators were busy mimicking Bill Walsh's West Coast offense, which more often kept a fullback on the field and used short passing to control the game.

    Still, new offensive schemes caused problems for the referees, because in the West Coast scheme, officials had to pick up the fullback and tight ends and it wasn't clear when players were going to block or when they would go out for a pass. But according to NFL officiating legend Art McNally, who was a consultant on the film, the problem was even more pronounced when three or more receivers got downfield in a hurry, stretching the referees' responsibilities. There was always the danger someone would go long and not have a official watching him because he thought his assignment was elsewhere.

    Obviously, if the officials had trouble keeping track of offenses, defenses were going to have issues as well. Right now, the hot trend appears to be the use of three-receiver sets. I have a few theories as to why.

    Recent rule changes, mainly last year's re-emphasis on the illegal chuck have helped wide receivers get downfield.

    The NFL's a copycat league, and who wouldn't want to mimic the Colts' offense, which had three 1,000-yard receivers last year -- not to mention incredibly effective tight ends and a star running back?

    Wide receivers are coming out of college bigger, faster and stronger. Since Randy Moss exploded as a rookie in '98 after being drafted No. 21 overall, receivers are more likely to be picked high in the first round than running backs. In the last three drafts, eight receivers have been selected in the top 10, and an average of five receivers have been picked in the first round. Several players who might have ended up at a different position such as tight end or defensive end proved they could play receiver in college. Lions rookie Mike Williams was recruited by several schools to be a tight end, but chose USC because it promised he could play wide receiver. There are also a number of smaller tight ends that play more like receivers and are having great success of late.

    Three-receiver sets force defenses into nickel and dime packages and get massive run-stuffers like San Diego's Jamal Williams and Oakland's Ted Washington off the field, freeing up a little room for the running game.

    Lions coach Steve Mariucci made a strong statement about the three-receiver set by taking Williams at No. 10 in this year's draft. Mooch had talked about using a three-receiver set in San Francisco with Terrell Owens, J.J. Stokes and Tai Streets, but his personnel wasn't quite good enough to make it a complete success.

    With 3,400 combined receiving yards in 2004, the Colts' Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley are the most prolific trio in the league. But given the current trend, will Indy's receivers remain the most lethal triumvirate? Here are my top five three-wide receiver sets for 2005:

    5. Raiders (Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry): Moss and Porter is a pretty fearsome duo on paper, but Curry could be the element that makes the Raiders' offense unstoppable. Curry is recovering from a torn Achilles' heel that ended his 2004 season, but is reportedly running and will be full strength by the season. Oakland believed in Curry enough to sign him to a contract extension this offseason. If he gets back to where he was last year, the Raiders have three home-run threats. Considering you have to double-team Moss, Porter and Curry will have great opportunities -- and Kerry Collins has the arm strength to hit them long.

    4. Cardinals (Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson): A year before Mariucci selected Mike Williams, Arizona coach Dennis Green surprised folks by taking Fitzgerald with the No. 3 pick in the 2004 draft. The Cards had just selected wide receivers Johnson and Boldin in 2003, and both showed enormous potential. All three are outstanding players, but the team's offense still has question marks -- can someone, perhaps rookie J.J. Arrington, provide a running game, and does QB Kurt Warner have anything left? Based on Green's history, there's reason to believe the Cardinals will be able to put some points on the board and these young receivers will lead the way.

    3. Lions (Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams): How many receivers in the league are over six-feet tall and can run an under-4.3 40-yard dash? At least half of them -- Rogers and Roy Williams -- are Lions. And Detroit added another physical freak -- Mike Williams -- in the draft. Look for Mariucci to line Mike up in the slot and use his size as a very effective possession receiver, while Rogers and Roy menace defenses downfield. Add a slightly over-the-hill Marcus Pollard at tight end and running back Kevin Jones and the Lions should be hard to stop. Two potential issues: Rogers' injury history and instability at quarterback. An early call to Jeff Garcia over Joey Harrington might help the young stud receivers.

    2. Rams (Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Kevin Curtis or Shaun McDonald): Several commentators have pointed out that the Rams have had trouble replacing Hakim in their slot position and the offense has come down to earth a little. Then St. Louis selected Curtis and McDonald in the third and fourth round of the 2003 draft. Both appear to be developing into potential weapons at the third-receiver spot. The No. 1 and No. 2 spots are still in good shape with Holt and Bruce -- as long as you don't ask Bruce to go out long -- and either Curtis or McDonald adds an element of speed that makes the Rams dangerous once again. Curtis appeared to be the guy in last year's playoffs, combining for 235 receiving yards in two games, but McDonald also had his moments and will be in the mix.

    1. Colts (Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley): Is it the system or the receivers? Offensive coordinator Tom Moore is one of the best, QB Peyton Manningis the best, tight end Dallas Clark is an emerging star and running back Edgerrin James is one of the better RBs in the league. But don't underestimate the talent of this receiving crew. All three are fast, good route-runners and sure-handed. Whenever you watch a Colts game, one of the three always seems to be wide open 30 yards down the field. That's what happens when an offense has so many ways to kill you and your quarterback's ball-fake fools cameramen and defenses on virtually every down. History says Manning will have difficulty topping his 49-touchdown record, but look for huge seasons from Harrison, Wayne and Stokley once again. Now, if they can somehow translate this into some success on a cold field in Foxboro ....


    Other Trios To Watch

    Patriots -- Remember that Sirius Radio commercial in which David Givens, Deion Branch and Troy Brown all say, "I thought I was Tom Brady's favorite receiver"? Take Brown and Patten (signed with Washington) out of the equation and add a receiver to be named later, because you never know which Patriots pass-catcher is going to have a big afternoon.

    Bengals -- The Bengals re-signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who forms a solid one-two punch with Chad Johnson. Peter Warrick should be fully recovered from a broken fibula and knee problems, and is still plenty good for a third option. But if Warrick can't stay healthy, rookie Chris Henry out of West Virginia might be a surprise later in the season.

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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    First of all, There is no 3 WR set better than ours, Curtis has already proven to be AWSOME! And this guy writing this colmn has failed to see that (yet) Curtis will burn it up this season just watch.
    Without Harrison, Manning would be lost! take any of our WR out of the mix and we still have Mcdonald and two RB's that can catch better than most receivers....

    The problem with the 3,4 and 5 picks, there's noone to throw them the ball...

    Think about this, with Pace schooling Williams-if he's as good as we hope, Bulger might have as much time to pick one of our receiving core as he ever dreamed possible, You know, Manning and Brady kind of time!

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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    Quote Originally Posted by PTHOR
    First of all, There is no 3 WR set better than ours
    The Colts having three WRs with 1,000+ yards and 10+ touchdowns each seem to disagree.


    Quote Originally Posted by PTHOR
    Without Harrison, Manning would be lost! take any of our WR out of the mix and we still have Mcdonald and two RB's that can catch better than most receivers....
    Well, depth outside the top three isn't really the point of the article. I agree that we may have more depth, but if you look at the three receivers on top of the depth chart, you have to give the edge (no pun intended) to the Colts on this one.
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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    Quote Originally Posted by NickSeiler
    The Colts having three WRs with 1,000+ yards and 10+ touchdowns each seem to disagree.




    Well, depth outside the top three isn't really the point of the article. I agree that we may have more depth, but if you look at the three receivers on top of the depth chart, you have to give the edge (no pun intended) to the Colts on this one.
    Yea, it's hard to argue with the output up in Indy. And to the extent of the article, I'd have to agree with the 3 receiver idea and to that our 2nd place finish. However, as the writer even alluded to, when considering 4-WR sets, there is no comparison to the Rams, including the Colts.
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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    I think with the Colts it's the QB that makes the WR and in the Rams it's the opposite. Seeing Peyton in the horns would be incredible. That's not to take anything from Bulger by any means, ours is not an easy offense to lead. But, I also think that no matter how you rank the Colts and Rams WR's there's a SHARP drop from #2 to #3. I don't understand the Lions being up so high when they haven't done anything.
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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    Although the Lions haven't done anything yet, it is hard to argue with a receiving trio like they have. If I was a quarterback, I would be salivating at the thought of being able to throw to Mile Williams, Carlos Rodgers, and Roy Williams. I think that their major obstacle on offense is to find a quarterback that can reliably get the ball into their hands...well that and keeping all three of them healthy. I don't see how they are ranked that high now, but I can see them up there in a few years.

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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    Quote Originally Posted by rawkhrdr
    Although the Lions haven't done anything yet, it is hard to argue with a receiving trio like they have. If I was a quarterback, I would be salivating at the thought of being able to throw to Mile Williams, Carlos Rodgers, and Roy Williams. I think that their major obstacle on offense is to find a quarterback that can reliably get the ball into their hands...well that and keeping all three of them healthy. I don't see how they are ranked that high now, but I can see them up there in a few years.
    Assuming Charles Rogers can stay on the field. He's played five games in two seasons.

    But yeah, I think the Lions get on the list based on talent alone, because R. Williams showed flashes of it last year, and M. Williams was arguably the best receiver in this draft. If Chuck can stay healthy, that's a pretty effective trio.
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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    I agree that there is a huge drop between #2 and #3. And I have to agree with Nick. The Colts did put up better numbers, but some days I would have to give the edge to our boys. The Colts are more consistent, but the Rams seem to explode at random times. This is what makes football so exciting...
    My problem is with the Raiders being in the top 5. Maybe I just didn't watch enough of their games, but I wasn't that impressed with what I saw.

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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    Quote Originally Posted by RamsFamily
    My problem is with the Raiders being in the top 5. Maybe I just didn't watch enough of their games, but I wasn't that impressed with what I saw.
    Well, the addition of Randy Moss this spring probably put them up on the charts.
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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    Quote Originally Posted by DJRamFan
    I think with the Colts it's the QB that makes the WR and in the Rams it's the opposite. Seeing Peyton in the horns would be incredible. That's not to take anything from Bulger by any means, ours is not an easy offense to lead. But, I also think that no matter how you rank the Colts and Rams WR's there's a SHARP drop from #2 to #3. I don't understand the Lions being up so high when they haven't done anything.
    I 100% agree! Harrison and Holt are pretty much on par..I woudn't trade wither of those suckers for Bruce or Curtis...

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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    The raiders should be no. 3 because the lions and the cards are based completely on potential and the raiders receivers all really fit that offense well. the only two that are proven are ours and the colts and the colts do have Manning, which makes the difference (not to be mean to bulger). He is there consistency

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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    Manning is a CHOKER! He always has been and probably will be for a long time to come.

    The fact that Martz spreads the ball around so much is the only reason the RAMS receivers arn't all over 1000. With the maturation of Curtis this season and barring any injury's, all three should do it this season.

    BTW: above I said Williams when I should have said Barron...

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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    Quote Originally Posted by PTHOR
    Manning is a CHOKER! He always has been and probably will be for a long time to come.

    The fact that Martz spreads the ball around so much is the only reason the RAMS receivers arn't all over 1000. With the maturation of Curtis this season and barring any injury's, all three should do it this season.

    BTW: above I said Williams when I should have said Barron...
    if Manning doesnt have to play the N.E. punks in the playoffs they might make it to the SB and then choke against the Rams.:football:
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    Re: SI ranks the Rams as second most dangerous three-WR set in the NFL

    Quote Originally Posted by PTHOR
    First of all, There is no 3 WR set better than ours, Curtis has already proven to be AWSOME! And this guy writing this colmn has failed to see that (yet) Curtis will burn it up this season just watch.
    Without Harrison, Manning would be lost! take any of our WR out of the mix and we still have Mcdonald and two RB's that can catch better than most receivers....

    The problem with the 3,4 and 5 picks, there's noone to throw them the ball...

    Think about this, with Pace schooling Williams-if he's as good as we hope, Bulger might have as much time to pick one of our receiving core as he ever dreamed possible, You know, Manning and Brady kind of time!

    It's not just me. Those two (Brady and Manning) have forflippin'ever to throw, on every passing play.
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