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    • michael89156

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      It’s a great time to be an NFL receiverantonio_zpsi1imlojb.jpg Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown ranks among the NFL’s best wideouts. By Ira Kaufman | Tribune Staff Published: September 30, 2015TAMPA — The toughest job in pro football keeps getting harder.Aided by an NFL Competition Committee determined to promote scoring, wide receivers are flourishing like never before. With their combination of size and speed, these rangy targets run unfettered downfield while overmatched defensive backs try in vain to separate them from the football.“You feel a need to be a little physical with them, but it’s difficult with the way the game is evolving,’’ Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner said.“It’s more challenging, for sure, but we can still get the job done.’’There have always been elite receivers in the NFL, but the depth of quality at the position in 2015 is staggering.Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Julio Jones of Atlanta are shredding secondaries at a record pace, but they are hardly the only game-breakers. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, Denver’s Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Marshall of the Jets are big, physical receivers in their prime, and don’t forget about a pair of injured studs — Dez Bryant of the Cowboys and Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson.Veterans such as Baltimore’s Steve Smith, Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals are still productive while the next generation appears to be in good hands, led by Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants, Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, Oakland rookie Amari Cooper and Keenan Allen of the Chargers.Last year, six wide receivers chosen among the first 63 picks in the draft registered at least 65 receptions.College offenses are becoming more sophisticated, helping young receivers to be NFL-ready earlier than their predecessors.“These guys are having more opportunity to run the routes that we run,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid.With so much talent at the top, the pecking order can change quickly during the golden age of the wide receiver. Johnson was widely considered the NFL’s No. 1 target until Jones and Brown came along.Nicknamed “Megatron,’’ Johnson’s career average of 86.9 receiving yards per game ranks No. 2 in league annals to Jones, who averages 91.7 yards.Since 2013, Brown leads the league with 268 catches and 3,633 receiving yards. He has at least seven receptions in an NFL-record 14 consecutive games for the Steelers, but now he will have to adjust to Michael Vick under center while Ben Roethlisberger recovers from a knee sprain.Despite Brown’s prolific numbers, there are many who would tab Jones as the league’s premier wideout. Playing catch with Matt Ryan since arriving in 2011, Jones is the first player in NFL history with 34 receptions in the first three games of a season.“Julio’s the best receiver on the planet,’’ said NBC analyst Rodney Harrison, a former Pro Bowl safety.Dirk Koetter, who used to dial up plays for Jones in Atlanta, is in his first season as offensive coordinator of the Bucs. He’s grateful to have rookie quarterback Jameis Winston break into the league with Evans and Jackson on his side.“You can count on them to win because of their size,’’ Koetter said. “Sometimes when they are not clean, you can still throw it at them and they are going to make some plays. Covered is still open — depending on who the receiver is.’’In his 11th year on the NFL sidelines, Bucs coach Lovie Smith marvels at the wide receiver inventory throughout the league.“It does seem like each week there is not just a good receiver, there’s a special one, and it seems like most teams have a couple that you deal with,’’ Smith said. “I don’t know if the (defensive back) talent is going up the same way the receiver talent is going up, but I’m just glad when people are talking about the receivers, they’re putting us in the discussion. Because we definitely have a couple.”Not every team has gotten the message, however.In Monday night’s 38-28 setback at Green Bay, Jeremy Maclin of the Chiefs caught a 5-yard scoring pass from Alex Smith, ending a streak of 18 consecutive games without a touchdown reception by a Kansas City wide receiver.“The one positive,’’ Smith said, “is we don’t have to deal with the receiver talk anymore.’’ikaufman@tampatrib.comTwitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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    • billym

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      They still flag wr’s for stuff though. Mike needs to get the pushing off under control the refs are looking for it now it seems. I think he has a rep for that now in his second year.

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