INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts have played two of four preseason games so far, and the team enters a 10-day span where they will complete the complement of four outings.
That 10-day span is a critical time that will determine the fates of a number of players, and it also provides an outstanding opportunity at the same time, too.
Rookie receiver Griff Whalen is one player who is competing among a group of talented performers on a unit. The Stanford product was able to get his first game action last week at Pittsburgh in what has been a challenging time to make the club.
Whalen, like quarterback Andrew Luck and receiver LaVon Brazill, was not able to acclimate himself fully during spring OTA work because of academic obligations. He was able to participate in the mandatory mid-June camp, and he worked in informal practices arranged in Miami for Luck and a few of the receivers.
In some work in Indianapolis prior to camp, Whalen suffered a recurrence of a foot injury that had plagued him previously, and his availability for the start of training camp took a beating.
Now better, he caught the eye of Head Coach Chuck Pagano with his work toward the end portion of training camp held at Anderson University and in the outing against the Steelers.
"We're seeing the same things out of Griff that we saw collegiately," said Pagano. "He knows how to get open. He has great hands. He's very smart. He understands the offense, so he's not out there thinking. He's able to play fast."
Whalen was a difference-maker at Stanford, finishing his career with 1,058 reception yards and five touchdowns. He was the team leader in 2011 with 749 yards and four scores as the school earned another BCS bid. Whalen had a high of nine receptions last year against Oregon, one of Stanford's premier opponents.
Whalen was a walk-on at Stanford just as he joined Indianapolis as an undrafted free agent. He got into second-quarter action at Pittsburgh and caught an eight-yard pass from Luck in a successful two-minute drive that ended with a half-ending field goal.
Whalen got a solid amount of playing time in the second half, adding three more receptions for 51 yards. One was a four-yard scoring reception from Drew Stanton. Pagano was an interested spectator.
"You saw him make three great plays, two plays down the middle of the field, get off the press coverage, get himself clean and make a great play, take a big lick and stay up," said Pagano of Whalen's second-half action. "The touchown pass he caught was a great throw by Drew, and him getting open in the end zone was excellent. I was pleased with (him)."
For Whalen, the chance to contribute after a necessary spring absence and an injury-abbreviated training camp was beneficial. He wants to do so however possible.
"It felt really good to finally be out there this past week and get the comfort back again. I felt real good," said Whalen. "I'm willing to do what whatever they want me to do. I tried to stay as locked in as I could the whole time when I could not be on the field. I paid attention and watched the guys taking the reps, but it did feel really good to get out there."
In the club's new offense, receivers have been moved to different locations. Veteran Reggie Wayne opened his career in 2001 seeing slot action, and he got a steady dose of it in camp this year. Austin Collie has had slot duty most of his career, but he saw more action wide in camp than he had in previous ones.
Collie now is day-to-day with a concussion. Veteran Donnie Avery, who has missed the first two games, could return this week. Whalen looks to get out there, too, and he likes the offense and his comfort level with it.
"We have a really nice offense that we have put in here. There are different roles I think I can fill. I'm willing to do whatever they want," said Whalen.
"It's (his comfort) pretty good now. We had a lot of time this summer and this (training) camp to go over it. We still have things to clean up, little mistakes here and there. I think all of us are starting to get ahold of it pretty well."
With the clocking ticking toward the regular season, Whalen was asked if there were pressure on him to produce in the next two weeks. He acknowledged it, but no more so than how he has approached things from the start.
"I guess so," said Whalen. "That's kind of been the attitude the whole time, just in practice every day and in meetings, like being locked down and knowing your stuff and showing up every day. I'm just here to compete and do everything I can every day."
With Collie's participation in question, Pagano was asked if receivers had a chance to make a mark over the next two games. He said receivers were just like linebackers on the squad who have the same chance with the injury absence of starter Pat Angerer.
"It's just like Pat (Angerer) going down. A guy like Free (Jerrell Freeman) and Moise (Fokou) and Greg Lloyd are having an opportunity to step in and showcase what they can do. The same goes for the wide receivers," said Pagano. "They're going to get an opportunity, not only this weekend but in the last preseason game to try to earn a spot on this team."