Nothing was more devastating to the Colts in 2013 than the injury to wide receiver Reggie Wayne. It's hard to overstate his impact to the Colts in 2012 and through the first seven weeks of the 2013 season, and when he went down in the fourth quarter of that game against the Broncos, the course of the season for the Colts was changed drastically, and the team struggled to adapt. Wayne played an incredibly crucial role to the team and is coming back in 2014 and figures to have an impact as well.
One positive that came out of Wayne's injury, however, was the development and use of T.Y. Hilton over the second half of the season and the playoffs, and for the first time in many years, the Colts will enter a season without Reggie Wayne as their best receiver. Reggie Wayne will be the number one receiver, but the best receiver? Not this year.
That said, he's still incredibly important to the Colts's success in 2014. He's coming back from his torn ACL and while there are questions about how he will do with being 35 years old and recovering from injury, but it's important for the Colts that Wayne play well. If the Colts hope to achieve their goal of reaching the Super Bowl, they'll need Wayne to step up and contribute in a big way. Perhaps they won't need the dominant performance that Wayne has given in the past few years, but they'll still need Wayne to really step up and produce. The Colts do have other weapons on the offense such as Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, Donte Moncrief, Coby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen, but Reggie Wayne will need to step up and have a big impact in 2014 if the Colts hope to reach their full potential.
Wayne is about as dependable of a receiver as there is and served as a safety blanket for Andrew Luck. He's a tremendous team leader and veteran presence and he is always there when the offense gets into trouble. The Colts saw what it looks like to play without Reggie Wayne last year and it wasn't pretty, and while the team is hopefully more capable of handling that now with Hilton, Nicks, and Moncrief, they still don't want to have to play without Reggie and they could absolutely use his tremendous route running, leadership, dependability, and safety blanket. Reggie Wayne impacts every part of the offense when he is in the game and is a guy that defenses have to gameplan around. He might not be the best receiver on the roster anymore, but he's still a dang good wideout and one that can help the Colts tremendously in 2014. If the Colts are going to reach their full potential and reach their goals of winning the AFC South, winning the conference, and then winning the Super Bowl, they're going to need Reggie Wayne making a big impact and that's why, despite the question marks surrounding his return from an ACL injury at his age, he's still very important to the success of the team in 2014.
Check out our list counting down the 14 most important players to the Colts' success in 2014:
14. Pat McAfee, punter
13. Anthony Castonzo, left tackle
12. Greg Toler, cornerback
11. Reggie Wayne, wide receiver