Colts receiver Phillip Dorsett says he’s continuing to make progress
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This can’t be what the Indianapolis Colts envisioned when they addressed their offense with the 29th overall pick in the 2015 draft, and essentially told their defective defense to wait its turn.
They had to expect more out of Phillip Dorsett, a wide receiver out of the University of Miami with serious speed.
They had to expect more than flashes of big-play talent followed by stretches of invisibility.
They had to expect more than a two-year tally of 51 receptions, 753 yards and three touchdowns in 26 games.
The coaching staff has remained supportive of Dorsett – “I think he has improved his overall understanding of the game, his route running, the details of playing the receiver position . . .’’ offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said in December – but the clock is ticking.
Time is running out for Dorsett to justify his draft pedigree and avoid joining linebacker Bjoern Werner as another failed first-round investment by the Colts.
Werner entered his third season in 2015 clearly at a career crossroads. He never saw year 4. The team parted ways with its 2013 first-round pick (No. 24 overall) in March 2016, its patience at an end for a pass-rush threat that produced just 6.5 sacks in 38 games.
We’re not predicting a similar fate for Dorsett, but again, how long before the Colts grow weary of waiting for him to emerge?
Perhaps more important, how does new general manager Chris Ballard view Dorsett? As a playmaker who has lacked the proper coaching? Or as a wideout whose rare speed blinded the Colts’ personnel staff to his other deficiencies?
Ballard’s assessment of his inherited receiver could impact his approach to the April 27-29 draft. If he sees Dorsett on the verge of breakout third season, the Colts’ receiver corps is solid with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Chester Rogers and Dorsett. If not, add receiver to Ballard’s “To Do’’ list.
After the team wrapped up a second straight 8-8, non-playoff season in early January, Dorsett insisted he saw progress in his game from year 1 to year 2.
“Definitely making progress,’’ he said. “I played 15 games; I missed six or seven last year. I think I finished the season strong.
“I’m just trying to get better as a player. I think I got better.’’
There was a bump in production: 33 receptions after 18 as a rookie, 528 yards after 225 in ’15 and two TDs after one in his first season.
But it seemed as if Dorsett was a feast-or-phantom talent. He generated four of the Colts’ six receptions that covered at least 50 yards. Only Baltimore’s Mike Wallace, with five, had more. Dorsett averaged 16.0 yards on his 33 receptions, 8th-best in the league. Three-time Pro Bowl teammate T.Y. Hilton ranked 10th at 15.9.
Too often, though, Dorsett was a non-factor. He had two catches or fewer in nine games. Most distressing was Dorsett’s inability to step up in six games he was Andrew Luck’s No. 2 option while Donte Moncrief was out with injuries. His six-game output: 20 targets, 13 catches, 235 yards, two TDs.
Also, Dorsett and Luck never seemed in sync. Luck’s passer rating (83.2) and completion percentage (55.9) when targeting Dorsett were among his lowest within the framework of the offense.
Dorsett understands he’ll be the object of criticism until his numbers approach his draft status.
“I can’t help that,’’ he said last season. “It doesn’t matter to me. Other people, people they’re fans, look at me and ‘Oh, this guy has to come in and be this or that.’ It is what it is.
“I came here and accepted my role. That’s the role they give me and I go out and do it to the best of my ability. Everybody is going to get criticized. It’s a social media world.’’
It’s also a comparative world, and it’s not unreasonable to expect Dorsett’s progress to mirror that of another former Miami standout and Colts’ first-round pick. That would be Reggie Wayne, the 30th overall pick in 2001.
Wayne’s first two seasons: 27 receptions, 345 yards and no TDs in ’01; 49 receptions, 716 yards, 4 TDs in ’02. Then a major bump in year 3: 68 receptions, 838 yards, 7 TDs. Seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons followed.
“I just want to go back to the drawing board. I definitely want to improve as a player and a person,’’ Dorsett said. “There’s definitely more I can do.
“Year 3 will be a good one.’’