Over the next few weeks, we will be looking position by position at the current talent on the Indianapolis Colts' roster and previewing the battles that may take place in training camp. Today we look at the wide receivers.
The National Football League is a passing game. Especially with a rookie quarterback like the Colts have in Andrew Luck, the receiving talent is key in helping him adjust to the NFL level.
There is no battle for the Colts' number one receiver spot. That position belongs to one of the top wideouts in the game, Reggie Wayne. He is the leader of the offense, and especially the receiving core.
The number two spot is likely to be filled by Austin Collieentering training camp. Collie is the only other receiver besides Wayne on the Colts is returning. If Collie can stay healthy (which he did last year - it was one of the few bright spots of the season), he can be one of the biggest threats in the game. Collie is a tremendous talent, but he is facing a critical year. Without Peyton Manning and with a history of concussions, Collie must prove he can play and stay healthy at the NFL level.
Contending for the number two spot is also Donnie Avery, who was signed by the Colts this offseason. Avery is a speed receiver who tore his ACL in 2010 with the Ramsand has not really gotten much playing time since. Avery is a deep threat and has been playing in the slot during offseason workouts. However, with Collie having experience in the slot and Avery capable of providing a deep threat on the outside, that very well could be what the Colts do when they run a three wide receiver set.
Also looking to make a case for playing time is rookie T.Y. Hilton. A dynamic playmaker with tremendous speed, Hilton is a slot receiver who can be a game changer. I can really see Hilton making a case for significant playing time in the slot.
The other rookie receiver, LaVon Brazil, figures to add depth to the team and get some playing time, but I do not think that he will make any push for a top three - or even top four - spot.
Sambrano is an interesting guy to watch as well. He reportedly impressed at offseason workouts, but will have trouble making the team. Will he be impressive enough to make the final roster?
Five receivers will make the final roster, at minimum. Six receivers would be pushing it, but if another guy impresses the coaching staff enough, it is not outside the realm of possibility for the Colts to keep six.
My guess is that Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie start outside, and when the Colts run three wide sets then Donnie Avery will play in the slot. T.Y. Hilton will likely get time in the slot, as will Collie at times. From what I understand, Reggie will also be moving around some, not just staying on the left side as he has for pretty much his entire career. I think that LaVon Brazil makes the roster, and possibly Jabin Sambrano or Griff Whalen.
I am not worried about the receiver position. The Colts have veteran guys in Wayne and Collie and some good young talent as well. With so many other positions of concern, this is not one of them. The only question is who gets playing time and who makes the final roster.
However, those two questions will be very interesting to keep an eye on and could have a big impact on how Andrew Luck's rookie season goes.
PROJECTED STARTERS: Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie
BATTLING FOR PLAYING TIME: Donnie Avery (slot), T.Y. Hilton (slot), LaVon Brazil
BATTLING FOR A ROSTER SPOT: Kris Adams, Quan Cosby, Jarred Fayson, Jeremy Ross, Jabin Sambrano, Griff Whalen.