Young Colts Wide Receivers Looking for Spot in Rotation
INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne likes what he sees. So does Anthony Gonzalez.
Because when Wayne and Gonzalez, the Colts' leading returning wide receivers, looked recently at the group of players competing to join them next season in the receiving rotation, they saw more than potential mixed with limited experience.
They saw talent. They saw desire. But mostly, they saw work.
And the last part may have been the most imant part of all.
"That's pretty good," Wayne, a Pro Bowl selection the past three seasons, said during the team's recent 2009 mandatory mini-camp.
"Let me say this: just from watching the guys and being around the guys for a couple of weeks, you can see that everybody works hard," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez and Wayne last season combined with eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison to form the core of the Colts' receiving group, but with Harrison released earlier this offseason for salary cap reasons, Wayne and Gonzalez are the only two receivers on the roster with more than 10 career receptions.
There is, however, a group of young players with potential competing for positions in the rotation, a group that includes:
• Pierre Garcon, second season, Mount Union. Garcon, a sixth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, caught four passes for 23 yards last season, and received praise from Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell during the team's recent organized team activities and mini-camp.
• Austin Collie, rookie, Brigham Young. Collie, a fourth-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, led the NCAA in receiving yards last season, catching 106 passes for 1,538 yards and 15 touchdowns.
• Roy Hall, third season, Ohio State. Hall, a fifth-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, has played sparingly in his first two seasons, missing most of each season with injuries. He caught one pass for nine yards last season.
• Sam Giguere, first season, Sherbrooke. A free-agent signee shortly after the 2008 NFL Draft, he played on the practice squad last season. A leg injury kept him out of much of the recent OTAs, but he has impressed coaches and has potential to contribute.
"Without Marvin here it's going to be a big adjustment," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. "Whether it's Roy Hall or Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie, those guys have to step up. There's some open positions out there. Everyone of those guys, I've told them there is a receivers spot open right now. If you had to say today, Gonzalez goes to the right, Reggie stays to the left. That part I feel secure about. But there's a spot open there, either in the slot or on third down if Gonzalez or Reggie goes in the slot, somebody comes in at that right or left.
"All three of those guys need to be saying, 'Hey, that's my job to go win.' One thing that's always been proven around here that they will give you a chance to compete. It doesn't matter how old you are, how many years you've been in the league.
"If you win the job, it's yours. And that's healthy."
The Colts wide receivers as a group last season caught 204 passes for 2,477 yards and 15 touchdowns, and Caldwell said there will be a new dynamic without Harrison on the roster.
"Reggie (Wayne) has been playing extremely well and has been playing at a Pro Bowl level for quite some time," Caldwell said. "Anthony Gonzalez, all he's done is continue to get better and better each and every year. We have an opportunity whereas there are some young guys in our program that we do think are coming forward. We have to get some development from Pierre Garcon and Sam Giguere.
"Austin Collie is here and performing well. We have a number of guys that we need to just continue to work and we'll continue to get better in that particular area. When you lose a guy that has been playing here for 13 years at an elite level, certainly we are going to have to work extremely hard to fill that hole. We do think the guys are in place to get that accomplished."
The veterans with experience agree, with Wayne saying, "Whenever you have the opportunity to play and they're busting in on you and everybody is pretty much on the bubble, that ought to push you, it ought to make you want to go out there and produce and be better. Those three guys, they are going to compete.
"I'm confident in all three of them actually. I don't know much about (Austin) Collie yet, but to be determined. I'm sure they drafted him for a reason. He's capable of doing something for sure. I do know Pierre Garcon and Roy Hall. Those guys are competing tough and hard. I've been talking to them both all offseason. We've got something in store for you.
"You are going to see. As a receiving corps I think we are going to surprise a lot of people."
Said Gonzalez, "Whether we're successful or not, it's not going to be for lack of effort. Guys are really busting it out there, giving everything they can. We might be a little green at some spots, but hard work's probably the best way to overcome that, and that's not a problem with this group."