Searching for Chemistry Among Receivers

With the club enduring a tough stretch on offense in parts of the past four games, Chuck Pagano says contributors among the entire receiving corps are necessary. The running game can help, but fluidity and production through the air is needed.

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INDIANAPOLIS –When Reggie Wayne went down with a knee injury late in the Denver game, the dynamics for the club's receivers was altered tremendously.

In the four games played since, the Colts have endured struggles beyond the passing game, but Chuck Pagano says all players must emerge with a different level of chemistry with Andrew Luck.

"They have to," said Pagano on Monday.  "They don't have a choice, and that's why we're going to continue to practice and work extremely hard at developing some chemistry there between Andrew and those new receivers.

"In order for us to play well on Sunday, we've got to make strides.  We've got to practice well and continue to build that chemistry and continuity between Andrew and the guys that he's going to throw to on game day."

Colts Positional Reception Totals After Reggie Wayne Injury (4 games)

Pos. (QB Rating)

Target*

Receptions

Yards

TDs/In

WR (69.0)

92

45

537

3/2

TE (52.7)

39

21

274

1/3

RB (117.6)

26

20

241

1/0

FB (91.0)

6

5

35

0/0

OL (79.2)

1

1

0

0/0

Player (QB Rating)

Target

Receptions

Yards

TDs/In

T.Y. Hilton (117.5)

38

24

333

3/0

Other WRs (34.8)

54

21

204

0/2

Coby Fleener (55.0)

33

19

259

1/3

Other TEs (42.4)

6

2

15

0/0

*Play-by-plays credit Colts with 164 targets though team has 167 attempts

Through four post-Wayne games, T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener have come up as major targets.  Hilton has 24 receptions for 333 yards and three scores while being targeted by Luck on 38 occasions.

Fleener has 19 receptions for 259 yards and one touchdown while being thrown to by Colts quarterbacks on 33 occasions. 

Hilton burst from the gate with 121- and 130-yard games against Houston and St. Louis.  Fleener had career-highs with eight receptions for 107 yards at Tennessee, the first 100-yard game by a Colts tight end in 50 games.

Even with 16 fewer times being targeted, Hilton has three receptions and 129 yards more than all Colts wide receivers combined.  Hilton's three scoring receptions give Colts quarterbacks a 117.5 rating when throwing in his direction.  It is a 34.8 rating when throwing to other wide outs.

Fleener had two interceptions as a passing target during the St. Louis game when a wide deficit early caused a different type of passing approach than in normal conditions.  Quarterbacks are hitting on a 55.0 rating to Fleener.

Film look at opposing defenses is yielding predictable results.

"We knew people were going to take (Hilton) out of the game, and you knew who (Arizona) shadowed him (Patrick Peterson)," said Pagano.  "We knew exactly going in what they'd probably do and they did it.  That's what we can expect from here on out.

"He's a game-wrecker.  If we were playing ourselves, we'd identify T.Y. as a guy that we can't let wreck the game for us, and so we'd try to plan accordingly."

It is not all based on the passing attack.  A healthy running game and an ability to manage third-down conversion yardages will play into success.  

The club has converted 12 percent (three-of-25) of its first-half third down attempts in the last four games.  It has led to three-and-outs on 11-of-24 possessions, plus another with a turnover on a drive's second play. 

With the last four opponents scoring touchdowns within the first five minutes of game, two of them doing so on consecutive possessions to open the contest, Indianapolis has been under the gun.

It is an offense that is minus four performers with injuries in addition to Wayne, meaning newer players must emerge.

It means longer hours for Pagano and his talented staff. 

"They're (coaches) working overtime," said Pagano.  "We start meetings at 8 o'clock, special teams, and those young guys are in here at 7 o'clock with their position coaches.  They're staying after practice.

"Those guys are putting in hours that normally you don't put in with guys, but they understand the circumstances we're under right now.  Between the players and the coaches, they're doing everything, they're exhausting all resources, to get them up to speed as fast as they can."

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