The Colts looked great through the first half of the season, but things changed. They are now playing without their veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne. He brought more than just 503 yards and two touchdowns to the team. He brought leadership and someone who has been through the ups and downs of what the league has to throw at the Colts. They will miss his leadership because they have a young quarterback that hasn’t been through the hardships of the league, and we haven’t seen how he reacts to negative situations that could pop up during the long 16 game season.
This loss however, will not derail the great season of the Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck isn’t having a sophomore slump, in fact his completion percentage is 6% higher than last year. His passer rating is also 15 points higher than his spectacular rookie year. And his one spot where people said he needed to improve on was his interceptions and he is on pace to cut 12 interceptions off of last year’s total. You can’t give all that credit to Reggie Wayne.
In fact I would say that T.Y. Hilton is more the reason. T.Y. is having a breakout sophomore season with 707 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. He had 11 less catches then Reggie Wayne, but had only 81 less yards and an equal amount of touchdowns when Wayne went down. Now Hilton is going to be the number one receiver and his targets will go up, which is also good for the future of the Colts because they are now molding a young quarterback with a young wide receiver. Hilton is also averaging two yards more per reception than Wayne was. And, as we saw against the Texans, Hilton is ready for that number one receiver slot as he put up 121 yards and three touchdowns, and in the loss to the Rams he still had seven catches and 130 yards.
Plus they now get to use Darius Heyward-Bey more than they had been. He had 18 catches before the start of week nine and only got one during the Texans game. He also got three during the Rams game for 30 yards, but when someone on a team is going off like T.Y. Hilton it is hard for Luck to spread the ball, so look for Heyward-Bey to have a break out game in the next few weeks because the number of catches is going to sky-rocket as he becomes the number two receiver for Luck. Heyward-Bey isn’t a bad receiver either, in fact he had five touchdowns and 600 yards receiving with an old washed-up Carson Palmer. So pair him up with a good quarterback and the sky is the limit for him.
I believe that the Luck-Hilton combo can become as dynamic as the Manning-Wayne combo. Manning relied on Wayne to show up every Sunday and put on a great performance. I can see a lot of Manning in Luck and I believe Hilton can become as dominating as Wayne was. Wayne is one of the best, if not the best, wide receivers for the Colts of all time. But I think that with the high level Luck has started his career at, combined with the youth of Hilton, that they have a lot of time to bond and work out the kinks. This will cause them to be more comfortable with one another and they will be able to trust one another with the game on the line. Just watch out for this when we get deeper into the season, and closer to the playoffs.
Not to mention the underachieving Trent Richardson who they traded a first round pick for. Richardson is only averaging 2.8 yards per attempt since “The Trade” happened. Over a yard less than last year, and his longest run has only been 16 yards. Granted, he is a power back, but 16 yard is just pathetic compared to his 32 yard run last year. Trent finished with only five attempts with two yards rushing, yes two, against the Rams, who do have one of the best defensive lines in the game. No matter how bad Trent plays for the rest of the season I see him doing better than that performance. So at some point Trent will break out and be the back the Colts and every fan expected him to be. So when he finally catches fire, because he will, the Colts will have that other dimension that will add a wrinkle to their offense and will improve Luck’s play extremely.
You also have to take into account that the second best team in their conference is the Titans at 4-4. The Colts are 6-3, two games ahead of the Titans, and I don’t see the Titans improving too much more, or the Colts getting much worse. The Texans have the best defense in the league, by the numbers at least, and Andrew Luck picked them apart for three touchdowns to lead a comeback victory. Now the Rams game is a different story, with Luck throwing three interceptions and only one touchdown. Combined with Richardson only running for two yards, a winning outcome was highly unlikely. And last night’s game proved that Luck is young, but he is a leader and has the skills to get over the loss of a great receiver in Wayne. So as we saw the Colts and Andrew Luck can adjust to the loss of a great wide receiver, but will they is the question we will have to wait to find out, and if they do adjust they will still win games in a way only Luck can, and contend for the AFC Championship, and possibly the Super Bowl. So before you jump off the Reggie Wayne-less Colts, take a deep breath and give them a little time to figure this thing out, and they will make fans forget about the injury that was going to cause their downfall.