Some WRs aren't afraid to go across the middle

Here's my short list of WRs who can take big hits – and those who cannot.

Updated: December 24, 2004, 11:47 AM ET
By Eric Allen | ESPN Insider
I think you have to be a dedicated football player to know your job is to make the grab across the middle. A lot of guys want to be the No. 1 receiver, but aren't willing to make the physical sacrifices necessary to be that guy. It's nice for a receiver to be able to run fly patterns all day and catch passes running downfield where he can see the safety trying to hit him and can protect himself.

But a guy isn't a No. 1 receiver in my book until he proves he can go across the middle with no fear, take the big hit, get up and do it all over again. To be a football player you have to sacrifice your body for your team. This is a physical sport and players have to be willing to take those shots.

When I played guys like the San Francisco 49ers' John Taylor and the Washington Redskins Art Monk were two guys who weren't afraid to take a hit. They garnered respect around the league because defensive backs knew there was no intimidating those two guys. I knew every time I played Monk or Taylor that it was going to be a physical battle.

Of course there were also guys like the Houston Oilers' Haywood Jeffries and the Los Angeles Rams Flipper Anderson who shied away from contact and didn't want to go across the middle. Anderson especially was content with just running deep patterns and not having to go across the middle.

Here's my short list of players in today's game who can take big hits and guys who simply aren't going to do it:

Eric Allen

NFL studio analyst
Eric Allen, a 14-year NFL veteran and was one of the NFL's premier defensive backs, joined ESPN in August 2002 as an NFL studio analyst. His primary role is providing analysis for ESPNEWS' Monday Quarterback.