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We've entered the month of August and you know what that means — NFL training camps are in full swing. Those four little words that sum up August for most diehard NFL fans?
Football is back, baby!
Now that training camps are underway across the league, we here at Beard and Stache thought we'd have a little fun by naming the top five wide receiver duos in the NFL for 2012. Sorry Patriots fans, tight ends don't count!
Disclaimer: Don't be taken aback if you don't see the top three wideouts in the league — Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson — on this list. At the moment, they all lack a legit No.2 running mate (though that could all change depending on how Titus Young does in Detroit and rookie Michael Floyd does in Arizona), and while it gets us to appreciate their skills that much more, also disqualifies them from our list.
Enough talk, let's jump right in!
1. Roddy White and Julio Jones — Atlanta Falcons
Apparently, at least according to White, selling the farm to Cleveland a few drafts ago to bring Julio to Atlanta will pay major dividends starting this season. "He's going to be really good this year," said White. "I mean really, really special."
We have to agree with those sentiments. Jones is just a complete beast. Coming in at 6'3" and 220 lbs. while also boasting 4.39 speed in the 40-yard dash, Jones is quickly becoming one of the most imposing wide receivers in the league at only 23 years of age. He led the NFL in average yards after the catch and was also a perfect 100% on his eight red-zone targets, hauling in eight touchdowns. To put it simply, he's like a young Terrell Owens without the baggage, which is a huge plus.
White, on the other hand, has been arguably the most consistent receiver in the NFL over the last five seasons. Well, all except for last season when he lead the NFL in drops with 14. Ouch. But then again, that's the risk that comes along with being Matt Ryan's security blanket year after year after year. What I do like about White? He hasn't missed a game in his seven-year NFL career and is always near the top of the league in terms of targets and receptions. The man from UAB can ball. Enough said.
2. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz — New York Giants
The reigning Super Bowl champs boast the best big play combination in the league with Nicks and Cruz.
Nicks, despite only running a 4.63-40, is extremely explosive and damn near impossible to bring down once he gets rumbling. Not only that, he has superior ball skills and thus has quickly become one of Eli Manning's favorite targets over the past few seasons. The knock on Nicks is his continuing battle with foot injuries. (I bet the podiatrists love the business.) He recently broke a bone in his foot doing something as routine and mundane as running routes. Don't worry though Giants fans — it's apparently not that bad and Hakeem should be ready in time for Week 1.
As for Cruz, one has to wonder (and in the case of Giants' fans, hope) that Cruz's 1,536 and nine touchdown season in 2011 wasn't just a fluke. He was most effective in the slot, but could see more time on the outside this season with the departure of Mario Manningham to San Francisco. One can only hope that Cruz flourishes, not flounders, with increased time on the outside. We're thinking the former is more likely.
3. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson — Green Bay Packers
The knock on these two is that their production could be directly correlated to the awesomeness of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy's system. That being said, both guys are still good players and with any luck, won't have to find out what's it's like to play with a different quarterback in a different system anytime soon.
Another thing we like is how well Jennings and Nelson compliment each other. Jennings, while not really big or fast, is up near the top of the league in terms of route running and Rodgers has him on 'speed dial' when in a bind. Nelson was a monster on the deep ball last season, and while we doubt that he'll replicate that performance to a 'T', we still feel that, together with Jennings, these two once again figure to be staples in what has become the league's scariest passing attack.
4. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown — Pittsburgh Steelers
The success of both young men depends primarily on keeping "Big" Ben Roethlisberger upright and healthy this season. Like Jennings and Nelson above, Wallace (barring he gets his head on straight and reports to training camp) and Brown figure to be perfect compliments to one another.
While Wallace has been predominantly known thus far for his elite speed that takes the top off of opposing defenses, he's being used in more ways that just deep bombs. The same can also be said for Brown, who exploded on offense in addition to his value as a special teams star.
Both young guys figure to be phenomenal in what many people believe will be a pass-heavy offense under Todd Haley with running back Rashard Mendenhall still recovering from ACL surgery.
5. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin — Dallas Cowboys
I thought about putting DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin here; I really did. But to me, Austin and Bryant just seem like the better pair, especially since Jackson and Maclin are very similar types of players. Not only that, but I love the size of Bryant (6'2" 220 lbs.) and Austin (6'2" 217 lbs.).
Both guys have the size and speed you look for in your No. 1 wide receiver and as much as I dislike Tony Romo and the Cowboys, I have to give credit where credit is due. With Romo slinging the rock, the pair of Bryant and Austin should be more explosive in 2012 than it's ever been — barring that Dez stays out the media spotlight for the wrong reasons and Austin's hamstring problems are a thing of the past.