INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts know what they have in Reggie Wayne.
Yes, the 34-year old Wayne is coming off an October ACL injury as he enters his 14th NFL season.
When healthy though, Wayne has become a security blanket for Andrew Luck and the Colts have moved No. 87 all over the offensive formations in the last two seasons.
Wayne has averaged 6.3 catches and 80.8 receiving yards per game since pairing up with Luck, while also mentoring a young Colts receiving corps.
The Colts also know what they have in the electric T.Y. Hilton.
His sample size isn't anywhere near to that of Wayne but Hilton has been beyond impressive in his first two seasons in the NFL.
Hilton set a Colts rookie record with five 100-yard receiving games in 2012. Then when Wayne went down in 2013, there was the speedster thriving in a No. 1 role with a 1,000-yard campaign.
Now, the question becomes what do the Colts have in Hakeem Nicks?
As the 2014 free agency period approached, many pundits around the NFL connected the Colts to former Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker.
The steam shifted towards Nicks after the five-year pro told ESPN.com that if he went to Indianapolis, he would be "dangerous" with Andrew Luck.
The two will have the chance to back up that statement this fall but for now, let's take a look at how former NFL wide receiver and current NFL.com writer Bucky Brooks looks at Nicks.
Nicks is a terrific pass catcher with strong hands and ball skills. He swallows up the ball with his big mitts (Nicks sports 10 1/2-inch hands and wears XXXXL gloves), routinely corralling 50-50 balls on the perimeter. On deep throws, Nicks easily tracks the ball and adjusts to off-target throws. He shows tremendous body control in making over-the-shoulder catches down the sideline, perfectly executing the toe-tap to stay inbounds. Now, I must point out that Nicks lacked his typical consistency in 2013, but some of the drops could be attributed to a middle-finger injury that hindered his ability snatch the ball with his hands.Route running
Nicks is a polished route runner with impeccable timing. He understands where he fits in the route progression, patiently setting up his routes to ensure he is open when the quarterback is ready to throw. In addition, Nicks will use every trick in the book to create separation. He discreetly snatches at defenders at the top of the route to get free on curls and digs, but also is crafty enough to use various stems and releases to get open on vertical routes. During Nicks' college days at North Carolina, coach Butch Davis likened the wideout's physicality to that of Hall of Famer Michael Irvin. I certainly see those traits when I watch him work as a pro.Running skills
Nicks is a deceptive playmaker in the open field, a powerful runner adept at shedding tacklers in tight areas with an aggressive stiff-arm. Additionally, he will rip through arm tackles to turn a curl or dig into a gain of 20-plus yards. Yards after the catch are coveted at a premium; Nicks' running skills and toughness make him an ideal fit in an offense predicated on receivers busting big gains.
Stepping into the league as a first-round pick in 2009, Nicks immediately became a top weapon for the Giants. When healthy, he's a classic No. 1 receiver who excels at the short and intermediate game, but some observers overlook his ability to win on vertical throws. He has a knack for slipping past defenders on deep balls and is a legitimate big-play threat when left in one-on-one situations. (Even though his 2013 campaign was uneven, Nicks finished with 14 receptions of 20-plus yards and four of 40-plus.) Now, Nicks' touchdown totals have steadily declined over the past four seasons, with the Giants receiver failing to hit paydirt a single time last year. But astute evaluators recognize that the dip in production is a byproduct of the Giants' overall red-zone woes, not a reflection of shortcomings in Nicks' game.
Nicks has been the Giants' No. 1 receiver throughout his career. He is the focal point of the defensive game plan; opponents routinely use bracket or cloud coverage to neutralize his ability to make plays down the field. Although Victor Cruz is a Pro Bowl-caliber player in his own right, Nicks is the guy who keeps opposing coaches up at night. Looking at the Giants' title run a few seasons ago, it was Nicks who put the team on his back during the postseason. He tallied three 100-yard games during the 2011 playoffs, including a 10-catch, 109-yard effort against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Given the significance of performing well on the biggest and brightest stage, I believe Nicks deserves great credit as a clutch player.