The injury to Anthony Gonzalez in Week One was a bit of a blessing in disguise. While losing a wide receiver who averaged 17 yards a catch is never a "good" thing, Gonzo's injury forced young receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie into more playing time. The injury also seemed to push Bill Polian to sign former Eagles receiver Hank Baskett. Baskett has played a majority on special teams, where he normally excels. However, if an injury should befall Garcon or Collie, Baskett has had three weeks to absorb the Colts offense without the pressure of having to play right now.
What this means is that when Gonzalez returns to the active lineup after recovering from his MCL sprain, the Colts will having one of the better young receiving corps in this league.
Gonzo will likely return after the bye week, which follows Sunday night's game against the Titans. When he returns, it is likely that he will work again in the slot until the team thinks he is healthy enough to start again. This means Garcon will get moved back into his back-up role, and we will see less of Collie as the slot receiver.
I'm not sure I like this scenario.
Collie has developed into a good option at slot. Prior to his outstanding TD grab against the Seahawks, all of his previous catches (8 in total) were for first downs. That kind of production is exactly what you want from your slot receiver. He moves the chains.
For Garcon, I don't mean this as a knock on Gonzalez, but he is currently the best big play receiver the Colts have. Gonzo is certainly capable of making big plays (remember his catch and run for a TD against the Chargers in the 2007 playoffs?), but we haven't seen the kind of breakaway speed Garcon has showcased in recent weeks since a young Marvin Harrison was catching 80 yard TD passes from a 25-year-old Peyton Manning.
Gonzo's strength is yards after catch. Garcon's strength is deep speed and separation. He is also VERY physical as a blocker in the run game. Again, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think that Garcon is a better wide receiver than Gonzo is. And, if that is the case, how can Caldwell sit Garcon in favor of Gonzo?
The other factor in all of this is Peyton Manning. The guy loves Gonzo. We learned recently about Manning's dedication in helping a then-rookie Gonzalez back in 2007. From USA Today:
Many expected the 4-0 Colts to take a step back without [former coach Tony] Dungy and veteran receiver Marvin Harrison and with Gonzalez sidelined by a sprained knee since Week 1.
"Peyton has tons of ability, but really his preparation is why Peyton's great," Dungy said. "I remember Anthony Gonzalez's rookie year, he couldn't come over to practice with us until June.
"Peyton drove over twice a week to Columbus to throw with Anthony. That's the type of preparation people can't really appreciate, the extra time he spends bringing those young guys along as quick as he has."
Obviously, this issue of re-working Gonzo back into the mix is not that much of a "problem." Hell, it's the kind of problem just about every team in the NFL would like to have. But it is something to keep noted when Gonzo returns after the bye week.