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What to expect from rookie WRs like Ohio State's Anthony Gonzalez

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Gonzo asks: Are you not entertained!
So, last night I was up talking to MasterRWayne on the phone, and I was talking about how excited I was for mini-camp, and how I'm excited about the new draft picks especially Anthony Gonzalez. When I mentioned Gonzo, MasterRWayne seemed to shrug, and then said, I just don't have any faith in rookie wide receivers.

This statement gave me pause. Statistically, it's wise not to expect too much from rookie wide outs. With the exception of guys like Marvin Harrison (64 catches, 836 yards, 8 TDs), Torry Holt (52, 788, 6 TDs) and Randy Moss (69, 1313, 17 TDs), most rookie WRs do not really develop until their second or third years. Reggie Wayne was garbage until his third year. Hines Ward only caught 15 balls his rookie season, and Isaac Bruce only snagged 21 balls as a rook.

However, unlike players like Ward, Gonzo is stepping into a situation where the Colts already have two premiere WRs and a great TE. When Wayne came to Indy, he was expected to provide an immediate second option to Harrison. With Hines Ward, he came into a situation where no WRs in Pittsburgh were worth anything, and their coach (Cowher) had a Chuck Knox-like paranoia against throwing the football. Interesting side note: Pittsburgh's new coach, Mike Tomlin, is installing the exact same offense Indy uses in Pittsburgh. They are deploying a no-huddle attack with a high premium on passing. This will either be wildly successful for them, or wildly entertaining watching Roethlisberger trying to audible at the line Manning-style. I'll blog more on Pittsburgh copying the Colts offense because several Pittsburgh players seem to have issues with it, calling it too "finesse" for them. Funny how the Colts' "finesse" offense had them holding up the Lombari Trophy last year while Pittsburgh sat at home on the couch for the playoffs... but that's another topic.

Back to Gonzo, he's really walking into a better situation than many of the players I listed, save maybe Moss when Minnesota took him in 1998. Gonzo will likely not start, and get deployed only during 3 WR sets, lining up at the slot position. This means either the team's third corner, a safety, or a linebacker is accountable for him. The third WR slot will allow him to develop and grow in the offense. Gonzo is the eventual replacement for Marvin Harrison, just like Tony Ugoh is the eventual replacement for Tarik Glenn.

So, like MasterRWayne, I don't expect insane numbers from Gonzo, but I do expect consistent production. His speed, route-running, and ability to separate from the slot receiver position will cause teams fits. If you double Marvin, that's single (or safety) coverage on Wayne or Gonzo. That puts tremendous pressure on a defense, especially one with really old linebackers and a geriatric secondary... cough*cough*New England*cough*cough.