Every year in training camp there are players who surprise and players who disappoint. There are jobs that are won and jobs that are lost. There are players who are kept and players who are cut. With this series, we'll be looking at some of all of those, as we'll be looking at some of the battles that will take place in camp - whether it be for a starting spot or, more often, for a backup spot. That's the case with the wide receiver position, which we'll look at today.
The starters at wide receiver are clear and already determined. T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne will see a lot of playing time, as will Hakeem Nicks. They'll be the top three on the depth chart, and then fourth will be rookie Donte Moncrief. If you want a look at those players and the rest of the wide receiver position as a whole, I covered that in my wide receiver position preview and won't repeat that here.
Today, we're focusing on just three receivers, who likely will be competing for just two roster spots. I think it's most likely that the Colts keep six receivers total, and with Hilton, Wayne, Nicks, and Moncrief that leaves two more spots. There's always a chance that they'll keep seven receivers, but that's unlikely and for all intents and purposes we'll treat it as if they're going to keep six.
While there are other players who will be battling for a spot, it really looks like it will be a battle between Da'Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill, and Griff Whalen to earn the final two spots.
Rogers is the most talented of the group and the guy that the fans like the most. In fact, some might try to tell you that he shouldn't even be grouped in with the other two, as they think that he's clearly ahead of them in terms of security in a roster spot. Don't listen to them. He's clearly the favorite of the three, but he's not guaranteed a spot - he's going to have to earn it in camp and preseason. Why? Well, for all the talent he has and for the potential he brings, he absolutely must improve as a route runner. I can think of at least two interceptions off the top of my head that Andrew Luck threw last year that were clearly because Rogers wasn't as sharp in his route or as precise as he needed to be. At the same time, he did make some very good plays last year, the biggest of which was the huge catch in the wild card game against the Chiefs that essentially sparked the comeback. He's got potential, but unless he shows that he can utilize that potential on the field and unless he shows that he's improved from last year, he's not guaranteed a roster spot - though it looks like he's got the inside track to the number five receiver spot.
LaVon Brazill finally started to show some of his talent on the field late last season in a two touchdown performance against the Bengals. He too has a lot of talent and has managed to stick around thus far, though he's not guaranteed to do so this season. Brazill's problem, like Rogers, was inconsistency, and he's going to have to prove in training camp and preseason that he can be counted on. Is he going to show up one game and then disappear the next, like he seemed to do last year when the Colts really needed someone to step up at receiver? The question with Brazill isn't about his talent, it's about playing up to it and doing so consistently. An inconsistent camp and preseason - even if accompanied by bursts of good play - will spell major trouble for LaVon Brazill's chances at making the roster.
In contrast to both Brazill and Rogers, Griff Whalen is very dependable and consistent. That's his biggest asset, and while he doesn't have the natural talent that the other two have, Whalen is an incredibly hard worker who consistently gives his all and is there for Andrew Luck. Last year, Whalen was the biggest producer of the three, catching 24 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Whalen isn't the explosive deep threat that Rogers and Brazill are, but he is a dependable underneath guy who can play in the slot and catch passes and help out Luck. He's a good fit in the offense, though he's absolutely on the bubble because of the gap in natural ability between him and the others.
I like all three, but the Colts have a problem that's an incredibly good one to have - too many good players. As I said, the team could choose to keep seven receivers, though it's most likely that they'll end up keeping six. Who will make the team out of the three we've looked at? That's a question that won't be answered until training camp. As it looks right now, it seems like Griff Whalen is the odd man out, but from what I know of Whalen, he's not going to go out without a fight and he's going to work as hard as ever in camp. He's not out of the competition by any means, and as close as it seems right now, it's likely to only get closer in camp before (hopefully) becoming a bit more clear.
Who do you think should make the roster at receiver? Answer in the poll below about who you think the odd man out should be and then discuss it in the comments as well. One thing that's clear is that the battle for the final two roster spots at the wide receiver position will be an intense one.