INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have made it clear: the final couple roster spots at the wide receiver position are going to go to younger, hungrier playmakers.
With the top three spots at the position already secured by the likes of T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett — and with top return specialist Quan Bray showing major improvement as a receiver — that leaves one, possibly two, spots left at wide receiver for which the six remaining receivers on the 90-man roster will be battling.
And through the first two preseason games, a couple receivers in particular have really seemed to take advantage of their opportunities: Tevaun Smith and Chester Rogers.
When it comes to Smith, the undrafted rookie has been targeted 10 total times this preseason and caught five passes for 52 yards, and last Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens, the Iowa product hauled in his first professional touchdown — a one-yard reception from quarterback Scott Tolzien on a 4th-and-goal play.
"I feel like I did a pretty good job today," Smith said after the Ravens game. "But I still have a lot of work to do. There's a lot of stuff that I could've done better, but, you know, it's a learning process, and that's what the preseason is for."
But the preseason is also about players rising to the occasion and making a name for themselves, making it difficult for his team to let him go during final cuts.
Smith has certainly made that pending decision very difficult for the Colts with his play this preseason.
"Coach Pagano wants us to step up, and I feel like each and every day we're stepping up and getting better," he said. "Hopefully he sees that in us, and we're just going to continue to work hard and prove to him that we belong here."
In Indianapolis' opening game of the preseason against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Smith was targeted a team-high six times and caught three passes for 34 yards. His value was also felt beyond the stat sheet, as he drew a pass interference penalty late in the first half that led to a game-tying field goal.
Against the Ravens, he had another four targets with two receptions for 18 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.
Smith was an unsung hero for a talented Iowa offense from 2012 to 2015, playing in 47 total games with 24 starts and hauling in 102 catches for 1,500 yards (14.7 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns.
Smith was told that he could be a late-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but those hopes didn't come to fruition. But he's just fine with that.
"A lot of people drop, and I'm fine with that," he said. "I have a chip on my shoulder — I've always had a chip on my shoulder, and I'm going to do whatever I can to push myself and to make this team, really."
Smith should play about a half of football Saturday against the Philadelphia Eagles before getting the chance to play many reps in the Colts' final preseason game Sept. 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I'm doing whatever I can to make this team," Smith said, quietly but confidently. "I want to prove to them that I belong here, and I think (last Saturday) I showed a little of that, but not enough, though. It's never enough. I definitely want to make more plays and do whatever I can on special teams to help the team and help myself make this team."