Most everybody who has followed the Indianapolis Colts this season know that veteran Reggie Wayne quickly emerged as the go-to receiver of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
Wayne, who could have left the Colts in the offseason after his contract expired, has had an outstanding season so far with 88 catches for 1,156 yards and three touchdowns. He has been targeted at least nine times in 11 of the team's 12 games this season.
Opposing teams have noticed too. More and more in recent weeks, Wayne has often been double, and sometimes triple, teamed as he's attempted to find passing lanes in the defense.
With that being the case, Luck has been forced to find other places to go with the football on a regular basis. Donnie Avery and rookie T.Y. Hilton have stepped up their games, as have rookie tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.
Avery has 49 catches for 675 yards and three TDs on the year. Hilton, meanwhile, has 39 receptions for 598 yards and five touchdowns. Allen has hauled in 36 passes for 435 yards and two TDs. Fleener has been sidelined with a shoulder injury but returned to catch a touchdown pass in last week's road win over Detroit.
By spreading the wealth, as it were, Luck has done a nice job of keeping defenses guessing. But Wayne will always be the No. 1 option in the Indianapolis passing attack.
“It’s very important because we know Reggie is going to get double-teamed, triple-teamed,” Hilton said earlier this week. “We know we are going to see looks that we haven’t seen before. For us to be in the right spot on timing, we’ve got to be perfect.”
Interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians wasn't happy with the overall play of the Colts' young receiving corps last Sunday. Arians wasn't shy about pointing it our during his Monday post-game review.
"I thought we overcame some poor play by our young receivers during the [Detroit] ball game. They overcame it and then settled down and made plays at the end when we had to have it," Arians voiced.
"But throughout the game was probably the worst execution that we’ve had by our young receivers in about a month as far as where they’re supposed to be in reception areas and across defenders faces, technical things that we can get corrected."
A couple of days later, his ire had cooled a bit. Arians, though, did admit he had their attention in Wednesday's pre-practice position meeting.
"There were some critical mistakes made [in the Lions game] that go against everything we do in reception area and route depths and that was the first time it’s really crept in in about a month or so," he said. "So we got it corrected and I think everybody’s attention to details was greater [during Wednesday's practice] than it was [prior to the position meeting].”
The veteran National Football League assistant added that he usually doesn't broadcast his dissatisfaction with a particular phase of the offense. But he had a point to make.
“I try not to talk to them through the press, but I sure did try to talk to them this time through the press. So hopefully they got the message," Arians said.
Allen understood the comments.
“Spreading the ball around it makes it hard on the defense,” he said. “You can’t always double-team Reggie or when you do, it’s [Rookie wide receiver] LaVon [Brazill] getting open deep for a touchdown [against Detroit] or me catching one in the flats or catching a screen and taking it wherever, or Fleener getting a one-on-one matchup.”
“Being able to spread that ball around is definitely what has this offense dangerous late in games because guys can’t double team and shut down certain players.”
The first-year tight end from Clemson admitted the Colts' young receivers don't have to worry about any's egos being bruised.
“The selflessness of this team, the receivers, that’s really the reason we are able to spread the ball around like we do because if you have one guy that’s harping about getting more balls or needing more touches, then that can really bring an offense down but we don’t have guys like that in this offense,” Allen said.