There were several positives from the Colts win over the Chiefs on Sunday. We'll talk about a lot of them on the blog in the next few days, but right now, let's give some credit to receiver Griff Whalen.
Whalen led the team with 7 catches for 80 yards, plus he returned 4 punts, averaging 8 yards per return. This was just eight days after being activated from the practice squad and signed to the active roster for the third different time this season.
Whalen was active for the first three games of the year, making the roster out of training camp, but he hardly played at all and only caught 2 passes on 3 targets. He was inactive for one game and then upon the return of LaVon Brazill from his suspension Brazill was waived and signed to the practice squad, where he spent three weeks. He was then activated after the Colts lost Reggie Wayne for the season and he played significantly the next three games, but wasn't impressive enough to secure a spot beyond that, as he was waived and signed to the practice squad once again, where once again he spent 3 weeks. Then, on the day before the game against the Texans last week, the Colts activated him after they found out that LaVon Brazill wouldn't play in the game. Whalen played well and played even better this week against the Chiefs.
I have liked Whalen since last year, where he showed promise in the preseason before getting injured and being placed on season-ending injured reserve. I wrote about Whalen in my Wide Receiver positional preview this summer:
"Finally, Griff Whalen is back for another try at making the roster. He really may have made the final 53-man roster last year had he not re aggravated a foot injury in preseason that placed him on injured reserve. In two preseason appearances, he was very impressive, catching 12 passes (on 14 targets) for 125 yards (10.4 average) and a touchdown. He is a guy that walked on at Stanford and by the time he was a senior he was the leading receiver for Andrew Luck in Pep Hamilton's offense. Whalen's familiarity with the team, quarterback, and offensive coordinator likely gives him a slight edge heading into camp, but after that he will have to earn his spot. Whalen is an underdog who is hard not to root for...
"I really like Whalen and think that he has a real shot to make the final roster. He was very impressive in very limited work last preseason, and I expect him to continue that this preseason and, as long as he stays healthy, I expect him to earn the fourth wideout spot."
Here's what I wrote about Whalen in May, talking about why we shouldn't rule him out as a receiving threat on a team that really needed to add one (this was pre-DHB, even):
"Regardless of whether he is a starting wide receiver or a practice squad player in 2013, however, if he continues to work hard and stay healthy, in a few years he no doubt will be a big producer for the Colts. The only question is when that time will come. There is a chance we may even start to see significant production this season.
"Just remember one thing: don't rule out Griff Whalen."
I projected him on the 53-man roster before training camp began, and I also was incredibly impressed with him in training camp. Check out a point from my Day Eight Training Camp Notes for a sample of what I wrote about him then:
"It really is crazy how much Griff Whalen reminds me of Austin Collie - he even wears number 17! But Whalen seriously catches everything thrown his way. There was one play where Luck threw to Whalen but the pass was real low and hit the ground before it even got to Whalen, and we were joking about how it has to be a pretty terrible throw for Whalen not to catch it. That has a lot of truth to it. He was real impressive again today and seems to be a focal point when running with the second team offense."
In training camp, Whalen was a guy who caught every pass thrown to him and a guy who could be a very reliable possession receiver and could operate well from the slot. When he played in his first six games of the season (being thrown at in only four of those), he was decent but showed limitations. The main thing I saw was that he wasn't really able to create separation from defenders, which left him struggling to get open and not really able to create plays when he got the ball.
I don't know what has changed, but in the past two games playing for the team, Whalen has gotten open and has made plays. He's also caught almost everything thrown at him and been an important and very impressive player for the Colts. Take a look at his first six games and his past two and you can see the difference in production.
|Rec.||Targets.||Yards||TD||Avg.||PR (avg.)||KR (avg.)|
|First Six Games Active||9||20||102||0||11.33||N/A||N/A|
|Past Two Games Active||11||13||125||1||11.36||7-99-0 (14.14)||1-22-0 (22.0)|
Last week, he played very well. He caught a touchdown pass on a nice route and he played well elsewhere, too, most notably on a 51-yard punt return. This week, though, he was even more impressive. He caught 7 passes on 8 targets for 80 yards, and he had another 11 yard catch negated by a Samson Satele holding penalty. No Colt had more catches, targets, or yards on Sunday, and only one player had a higher yards per catch average (Donald Brown, who caught 2 passes for 31 yards).
What does this mean? Long-term, I have no clue. Whalen isn't yet a guy to build around, but he should absolutely be on the roster for the remainder of this season. He could actually be a factor in the playoffs for the Colts. They've been looking ever since Reggie Wayne went down (and even before) for receivers to step up. In the past three weeks, Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill, and Griff Whalen have all done so and the Colts offense is actually beginning to get it's rhythm back.
Whalen is making the most of this third opportunity on the roster this season, and he should stick around for good through the remainder of the year, at least. He has played well in the past two weeks and on Sunday he was a huge part in the Colts passing game.
It was a good one for the Griffer.