If Reggie Wayne Misses Time, Colts Equipped To Handle Life Without No. 87

Intro: The status of Reggie Wayne remains day-to-day with Thursday of Steelers week here. If Wayne misses anytime, are the Colts better equipped to handle his absence than they were this time last year?

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INDIANAPOLIS – As the Colts move into Thursday of Steelers week, the status of Reggie Wayne can be summed as "day-to-day."

Speculation will be there all week surrounding the health of Wayne's elbow injury he suffered in Sunday's 27-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

While the uncertainty around Wayne's status for Sunday remains up in the air, one thing is clear.

This Colts team is equipped to handle time without Wayne, if No. 87 can't be in the lineup this weekend.

Last year, the loss of Wayne meant Andrew Luck was without his security blanket in chaotic times.

Before Wayne went down in 2013, the Colts converted 49.5 percent of their third downs. After his injury, the conversion rate fell to 33 percent.

It took time to adjust to life without the 14-year veteran.

In the five weeks following Wayne's injury, Luck recorded his three smallest quarterback ratings of the year.

Things began to change in December and the Colts passing attack found a true No. 1 target in T.Y. Hilton.

"You had to grow real quick, but I knew my role--just go out there and make plays," Hilton says looking back on the second half of last season.

"When (Wayne) went down, I had to step up another level, and my main thing was don't try to replace him because there's no replacing him. Just go out there and play, and do the things that I'm able to do."

So as Wayne's status remains in doubt heading into this weekend the question has to be asked.

Are the Colts built to survive any time without Wayne?

Before moving on, the obvious answer is that the Colts are clearly better with Wayne in the lineup.

Wayne continues to provide Luck a reliable option, particularly on third down, with 26 of his 38 catches going for first downs in 2014.

So if No. 87 is down, where will Luck turn?

The cupboard is stocked with many more targets in 2014 than it was this time last year.

The Colts are the only team in the NFL with seven guys that have caught at least 15 passes. That number doesn't include versatile tight end Jack Doyle and emerging receiver Donte Moncrief, each who have snagged nine passes this season.

Last year at this time (Wayne got hurt in the seventh game last season), the Colts had five players with at least nine catches. They have nine guys who have reached that mark this season.

Luck leads the NFL in several passing statistics and a byproduct of that has been getting tight ends and running backs more involved in the receiving game.

After seven games last year, Luck had targeted the tight ends 39 times and the running backs 37 times.

At the same point in the season this year, Luck has 72 targets to the tight ends and 54 to the running backs.

Of course, healthy targets in Dwayne Allen and Ahmad Bradshaw have greatly contributed to that.

Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was a part in helping the Colts try and adapt through the November struggles last year.

As Hasselbeck looks across the Colts locker room now, he feels much more comfortable if players have to be called upon without Wayne.

"We have Dwayne. Griff (Whalen) has been on the active roster. Our running backs have had a point of emphasis to get out in routes and become more of a viable receiver. We didn't have Moncrief last year. T.Y. really wasn't a starter last year to start the year. He was on the sideline with me. Hakeem Nicks has been there before," Hasselbeck says.

"So not having (Wayne) last year kind of forced guys to show that they could be trusted and play so, yeah, I would agree with (that) assessment."

A great morning practice getting ready for the Steelers!

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