After the terrible ACL tear by All-Pro, Hall of Fame worthy WR Reggie Wayne during the 39-33 victory over the undefeated Denver Broncos in Week 7, it opened up tons of questions regarding the Colts WR corps. After the loss of Wayne, our only Veteran WR is Darrius Heyward-Bey; which isn’t something to really brag about. Other WRs who are now on the roster are up and coming WR T.Y. Hilton, potential scrub or potential gem LaVon Brazill, and David Reed; who is solely used for Kick Return duties and isn’t much of an accomplished receiver.
On Monday, the Colts promoted WR Griff Whalen from the Practice Squad to the active 53-man roster. I’ll try my best to give insight and breakdown the logical aspects of Ryan Grigson’s decision.
Lots of rumors were going around the league citing that the Colts will pull the trigger to acquire another surefire WR to fill Wayne’s spot after landing on IR. Wayne’s roster spot can be filled by anyone, but the leadership, presence, skill-set, and work ethic cannot be replaced nor duplicated by another player in the NFL. Sure I wouldn’t mind having a rising star wideout like Josh Gordon or a veteran Super Bowl champion in Hakeem Nicks, but I didn’t want our Front Office using more picks to acquire these guys now and hamper our future in the process.
But instead of getting a big name WR, we instead get a player who is widely unknown outside of the Colts fan base. Some people see the potential he possesses, others don’t. But I’m in the "Whalen Wagon" and always have been since his arrival; where’s why:
Griff Whalen isn’t a big specimen of a NFL player only being 5'11 185, he isn’t the fastest WR on the team, in the league, or at the NCAA level; in fact he isn’t quite fast at all only clocking in at 4.62 for his 40 yard dash. But despite lacking the physical tangibles, he does offer skills that are extremely important to playing WR at the NFL level. Whalen has excellent hands and catches the ball away from his body and sports a very impressive catch radius for someone his size; he catches the ball as if his life depended on it or the world will be destroyed if he drops a pass. Not only does he have very reliable hands, he runs polished routes and has good understanding of the defense he is facing, he knows what cut to make; when to make it; and where he should be on the field when the ball is thrown. He has the skills to thrive and make important plays for the team. Keep in mind during the game against Miami, he was wide open and two things could have happened, he could have either caught the ball and ran it in for the TD or put us in great scoring distance for a run play to minimize a mistake.
Now knowing how some of you are here at Stampede Blue; some of you who actually takes the time to read this article will think, "Well if Whalen is so good at catching the ball and running routes, why did he go undrafted? Or why is he on the practice squad and couldn’t get on someone’s active roster for once? How can you speak so high of a player who failed to unseat Lavon Brazill after outplaying him in 2 preseasons?
Where’s why, Whalen was not an "attractive" prospect to scouts and GMs, yeah sure he was playing on the field with the best QB prospect at Stanford University since the legendary John Elway and the very talented and gifted Peyton Manning, but he doesn’t have the size, speed, or toughness to be a #1 or #2 WR and seems limited to only a slot WR role. His college production at Stanford didn’t actually scream out "elite WR in the making". LaVon Brazill was a 6th Round draft pick, which makes him an investment to a NFL franchise. No matter what round a player is drafted, whether it’s the 1st Round, 2nd Round or 6th or 7th Round, that guy is a GM’s investment and automatically gets the nod over a rookie undrafted free agent.
The reason why I have alot of faith in Whalen is solely because he reminds me of a very good fan favorite player named Austin Collie. I’m not saying that because him and Collie are the same race or Whalen is wearing the same number as the former Colts WR. They both possessed the same damn near identical skill set to one another and we all knew how good Collie turned out to be despite the injury plagued 2010 and 2012 seasons of his career. Sure Whalen and Collie were not big and physical and can outmatch the CBs covering them, they didn’t have the speed to burn a CB in a foot race or stretch the defense. But what is very important is that they can be relied on heavily to catch the ball and move the chains and sustain a drive that can potentially win us a game, they know the difference between man-to-man coverage and zone; they know what route to run and where they need to be on the field so the QB can find them.
I don’t expect Whalen to set the world ablaze with his stats, I’m sure that Whalen will not be a Pro Bowl worthy or Hall of Fame WR, but I can say for certain that Whalen has a great deal of reliability and can do the things we needed Reggie Wayne to do. In my honest opinion; I think Whalen will produce the same results as former Colts WR Blair White this season and can achieve Austin Collie like production as he gets experience . Here are the Pros and Cons of Griff Whalen:
- Excellent hands to go along with a great catch radius for a man of his stature
- Great route running skills and knows where to be
- Has good chemistry with the starting QB and knows the playbook
- Has great familiarity with the Offensive Coordinator and working knowledge of the scheme and philosophy
- He is fairly cheap and can be a low risk/high reward signing
- Can distinguish the difference between Zone and Man-to-Man coverage
Knows how to find the "soft spots" in zone cover schemes
- Does not possess straight line speed to beat fast and quick CBs in man coverage
- Has trouble beating press coverage and can easily get jammed at the LOS by physical corners
- Burst coming off the LOS leaves a lot to be desired
- Past injuries can be a great concern for the player’s health*
*= Every player who takes the field in the NFL should always be an injury concern, any player can go down at any time during any play, it’s not always the players fault for receiving an injury.