Colts training camp preview: Wide receivers

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T.Y. Hilton

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The next step in the Indianapolis Colts’ bid to put an unfulfilling 2015 season behind them comes Tuesday when they report to Anderson University for the start of training camp.

Over the next several days, we’ll take a positional look at how they’ve positioned themselves not only to challenge for the AFC South title, but a possible run at Super Bowl 51.

Today we focus on the wide receivers.

Starters (three-wide formation): T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett.

Potential backups: Quan Bray, Brian Tyms, Josh Boyce, Daniel Anthrop, Marcus Leak, MeKale McKay, Chester Rogers, Tevaun Smith, Joshua Stangby.

It takes three

First-year coordinator Rod Chudzinski is expected to make liberal use of a three-receiver formation. It best fits the existing personnel, especially with hybrid tight end Coby Fleener now in New Orleans.

Hilton is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the NFL’s true difference-makers. He’s averaged 15.6 yards on 283 career receptions, and of his 24 career receiving touchdowns, seven have covered at least 46 yards. Moncrief missed the offseason work while recovering from toe surgery, but there’s every reason to believe the 2014 third-round pick is the real deal. From his rookie season to ’15, he increased his receptions from 32 to 64, his yardage from 444 to 733 and his touchdowns from three to six.

But for a three-receiver offense to work, Dorsett must make a significant leap from his rookie season. Last year’s first-round draft pick finished with just 18 receptions for 225 yards and one touchdown. He missed five games with a fractured left fibula.

“I had never had a surgery in my life, and that was definitely tough,’’ Dorsett said. “My dad and my family kept me upbeat about it. I got through it and I’m 100 percent now.’’

General manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano anticipate Dorsett being much more involved in the offense. So does Dorsett.

“I expect big things from myself, too,’’ he said. “We didn’t really have the season we wanted to have last year.

“I wasn’t here when they went to the AFC championship game (in ’14). To not make the playoffs the next year was tough. I’m looking forward to doing what we need to do and getting back to where we want to be.’’

Depth charge

As much as there appears to be strength at the top of the depth chart, the supporting cast is iffy. And that’s being generous.

Of the other nine receivers heading into camp, only Boyce (9 catches, 121 yards) and Tyms (7 catches, 94 yards, one TD) have caught a pass in a regular-season game. Bray has been a return specialist without a catch. Five are rookies.

Boyce spent the previous two seasons with the New England Patriots. Tyms suffered a season-ending Achilles injury during training camp with the Patriots last summer. He was with the Patriots in ’14 and Cleveland in ’13.

“The opportunity is here,’’ Tyms said. “I feel like every situation I’ve been in has been a good situation as long as you don’t mess it up on the field or off the field.

“I’ve learned a lot of things over the years that have helped me grow. Like I said, I feel this is a good opportunity.’’

Worth noting

For those who casually tossed around the word “bust’’ when describing Dorsett’s lackluster rookie season, a quick history lesson.

In 2001, the Colts used their first-round pick (No. 30 overall) on a receiver out of the University of Miami. Reggie Wayne’s rookie season hardly gave a glimpse on what was to come: 27 catches, 345 yards, no touchdowns. He battled a high ankle sprain early in the season. He went on to author a 14-year career worthy of consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

We’re not predicting a similar path for Dorsett, another former Hurricane standout receiver taken by the Colts with the 29th overall pick last year. But let’s hit the pause button before trashing him.