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Can Devin Funchess have an Ebron-like renaissance with the Colts?

NFL: JUN 11 Indianapolis Colts Minicamp Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The rehabilitation of Eric Ebron’s image took place in a hurry once the 2018 season got under way. From first round bust to touchdown machine, the change was dramatic. Ebron arrived in Indy with a reputation for dropping passes and generally being underwhelming. His stint in Detroit was wholly unmemorable, and Lions fans still heckle him on Twitter, even now.

It is fair to say that after making his first Pro Bowl and scoring 14 touchdowns as a Colt, the view of Eric Ebron has changed. Credit to Frank Reich for finding great ways to involve Ebron in the game plan, and an easy chemistry with Andrew Luck for helping integrate him seamlessly into the offense.

But most of all, credit Eric Ebron for stepping up and developing as a player and person, and proving that he has something incredible to offer this league. Ultimately, without his hard work the headline still reads “Ebron is a Bust.”

That kind of transformation is exactly what the Colts’ free agent signing, wide receiver Devin Funchess, is looking for. Funchess hasn’t had a great career so far in the NFL. A second round pick in the 2015 draft, Funchess has had struggles in his time with the Panthers, many of which are of the same variety that plagued Eric Ebron.

Funchess has an abysmal catch percentage, something that our own Zach Hicks credits to poor technique. That is an area that could benefit from a coaching staff that excels at teaching, which The Colts’ notably does. Another area of concern with Funchess has been raised as a result of the Amazon Prime series “All or Nothing.”

The series follows a team for a season, and each episode tends to take in depth looks at a particular player. Episode 6 of this most recent season focuses on Devin Funchess. For those who point out that a show is likely to overblow or overdramatize moments for effect, you might not be wrong. Funchess has a heated confrontation during practice with quarterbacks coach Scott Turner in week three.

Later in practice it showed him breaking down while talking with Turner and head coach Ron Rivera about how his cousin had been shot and killed in Michigan and that his funeral was taking place that day. It was actually a really touching and great moment, both in how it reflected on Rivera as a coach, and in terms of showing the viewer the struggles that players go through on a personal level during the season.

Funchess was sincere in his apology for his behavior, and it certainly is understandable that such a traumatic event would impact the way you interact with others. We’ve all had rough days at work, and the tragic death of a family member is more than adequate reason to prompt such a day.

Carolina Panthers v Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

What was perhaps more troubling was watching Funchess flounder during his week 11 homecoming trip to Detroit. He dropped several passes and became more and more visibly frustrated, shouting at the officials and responding to fans from the sideline.

After the loss, he was snippy with reporters, saying:

Stop trying to figure out whose fault it is. It’s nobody’s fault - I didn’t play good, we lost. But I’m not the only person on this team. I’m one of 11.

When asked if so many first half mistakes and miscues helped lead to the loss, he asked the reporters if they had seen the Eagles game in which the team had been trailing and came back to win.

So let me tell ya’ll about football. That’s how football works. No game has ever been won in the first half. Ya’ll good?

It was a pretty condescending and immature response to a very basic post game question. Players are often surly after losses. One as important as this game was to Funchess undoubtedly was even tougher to stomach. On its own, this doesn’t matter much. The only concern is whether Funchess has that quality that Frank Reich and Chris Ballard preach so often—the drive to get better and to finish.

Given that team’s massive slide and the cultural difference in the Panther’s building as compared with the Colts, it is fair to question how relevant last season will be to Funchess. He will be playing with a more accurate passer and in a scheme with a far more creative play caller. There should be ample opportunity to make plays.

Perhaps more importantly, Funchess won’t be matched up against the best cornerback on most teams. T.Y. Hilton will handle that responsibility, and playing second fiddle to Hilton will no doubt help his play. In fact, with Doyle and Ebron out there as well as a renewed commitment to the run, Funchess should see far less pressure than he had on him in 2018.

The question remains whether he can handle the moment when the pressure is on him to contribute. He already had a moment during OTAs where he was involved in a flare-up of tempers.

After the shouting match, Funchess showed signs of frustration, standing apart from the offense with Gunnard Twyner, the offensive quality control coach, speaking with him to console him. Again, scuffles and fights in early stages of camp and OTAs are pretty normal. The question is, will this be a trend or is it just a one off?

If Funchess can mature and flourish in the Colts’ offense, it will be a huge win for the team. He has some pretty incredible ability, and certainly has the potential to be a dangerous weapon for the offense.

Without the pressure of being the team’s top receiver, Funchess can simply hone his craft and be a quality role player. He will have to prove he can be resilient and handle his emotions, but there might not be a better team in the NFL to help him do that than the Colts. If he can’t keep his emotions in check? It could crack the door for the many receivers waiting in the wings to get a shot at the field.