The Third in an Off-Season Position-by-Position Series on the Colts
INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne never changed his approach.
It wasn't that he couldn't have, and it wasn't that Wayne and the rest of the Colts' receiving corps didn't face adversity this season.
They did. Big-time.
And partly because Wayne stood out among Colts receivers this season by doing what he has done for much of the last decade – i.e., be one of the NFL's most durable, productive, reliable receivers – the group remained what it has been throughout most of that same period:
Productive and reliable.
With Wayne making a fifth consecutive Pro Bowl and providing stability in an otherwise injury-filled season on the Colts' receiving corps, the unit helped the Colts make a ninth consecutive playoff appearance.
The Colts also ranked first in the NFL in passing.
"I go into it the same no matter what," Wayne said. "(Colts Head) Coach (Jim) Caldwell does a great job of reminding us as a team, 'You don't have to do anything special. Just stay with your signature move, whatever that move is – and just do it a little better.'
"As soon as you start saying, 'Man, (tight end) Dallas (Clark) is out. Man, (wide receiver Austin) Collie is out. I have to do this or that,' that's when you lose focus on what your best move is."
The Colts had plenty of opportunities to heed Caldwell's advice this season. That was particularly true at the receiver position.
And it was true throughout the season.
Pierre Garcon, who finished the 2009 season strong as one of the NFL's most dangerous young big-play threats, missed two games early, and was slowed much of the first eight weeks with injuries before starting the final 12 games of the season.
Garcon returned to play solidly in the second half of the season, but during a late October victory at Washington, Clark sustained a wrist injury and missed the remainder of the season. Two weeks later, during a victory over the Houston Texans, Anthony Gonzalez – after playing in two of the first seven games – sustained an injury. He also missed the rest of the season.
Collie, after emerging as a consistent threat opposite Wayne in the first six games of the season, missed the Texans game in Week 8, then sustained a concussion against the Philadelphia Eagles the following week. He played just two more games before being placed on injured reserve.
Clark, Garcon, Collie and Gonzalez missed a combined 33 games last season.
In their absence, the Colts found production at the position with a combination of familiar faces, emerging contributors and new players, with Garcon again establishing himself as a big-play presence throughout the second half of the season.
Garcon, a sixth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, finished the season with 67 receptions for 784 yards and six touchdowns after catching 47 passes for 765 yards and four touchdowns in 2009. It was Garcon's 57-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Peyton Manning that gave the Colts the early lead in an AFC Wild Card playoff game against the New York Jets.
Collie also continued to emerge as a key part of the offense, finishing with 58 receptions for 649 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games after catching 60 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2009.
As was the case at numerous positions this past season, the Colts received a significant contribution from a player who not only wasn't on the roster the previous season, but who wasn't selected in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Blair White, who signed as a free agent shortly after the 2010 NFL Draft, was released shortly before the season, but quickly re-signed and played in 13 games, starting four. He caught 36 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns, and his two touchdowns in the fourth quarter were key in a late rally in New England.
And has been the case for nearly a decade, Wayne remained at the core of the unit.
Wayne, who improved statistically each of his first seven NFL seasons, made his first Pro Bowl in 2006 when he caught 86 passes for 1,310 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the AFC in receiving yards with his first 100-reception season in 2007, finishing with 104 receptions for 1,510 yards and 10 touchdowns, then caught 82 passes for 1,145 yards and six touchdowns the following season.
He caught 100 passes for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009, then this past season became the seventh player in NFL history with three seasons of 100 or more receptions, catching a career-high 111 passes for 1,355 yards and six touchdowns.
He had four games with more than 100 yards receiving, catching 15 passes for 196 yards against Jacksonville in Week 4 and 14 passes for 200 yards against Dallas on December 5.
"I just play with the same intensity, but the main thing is, 'Don't take it down a notch. If anything, take it up even more,'' Wayne said. "Nothing changes with me on that aspect. I keep it all the same. I just go out there and whenever my number's called, I do whatever I can do to keep the chains moving and keep the crowd cheering. . . .
"This is how I look at it: if you're there every week, you have a better chance to make the Pro Bowl, a better chance to get to 1,000 yards. I feel like everything joins being there every week.
"I look at being there, playing every week, as the nucleus."