T.Y. Hilton needs a sidekick, says Reggie Wayne
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As the NFL Scouting Combine winds down and gives way to the inevitable, intensifying hype of the April draft, names will begin to gravitate to the Indianapolis Colts and their latest attempt at finding a suitable sidekick for T.Y. Hilton.
Reggie Wayne will save you the trouble of sorting through the prospects.
Who should be on Chris Ballard’s short list?
Yes, Robin. You know, the Boy Wonder guy.
“Every Batman needs their Robin,’’ Wayne said. “You know what I mean? And eventually we understand that Robin wants to be Batman. In the process, you need that help.
“It needs to be there.’’
Maybe it’s a veteran who might be available in the coming weeks: Golden Tate, Tyrell Williams, perhaps Devante Parker.
Maybe it’s one of the intriguing wideouts in the draft: Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry, N.C. State’s Kelvin Harmon, Ohio State’s Parris Campbell or Mississippi’s D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown.
Maybe it’s Deon Cain, the 2018 sixth-round draft pick who saw his rookie season end during the preseason when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees.
“I was a fan,’’ said Wayne, who worked as a volunteer assistant with the Colts during training camp. “But that knee ain’t for everybody. Everybody don’t bounce back like that.’’
By whatever name, the Colts need – T.Y. Hilton desperately needs – that guy to be what Wayne was to Marvin Harrison and Hilton was to Wayne.
Wayne laughed while recalling his introduction to his Batman. It was May of 2001. He was the Colts’ first-round draft pick, a frisky, confident pass catcher out of Miami. Harrison was in the sixth season of what would be a Hall of Fame career.
“Listen, when I got there the first thing I told Marv was I said, ‘How ya doin’, Marvin Harrison, No. 88. I’m Reggie Wayne and I’m doing everything I’ve got to do to get this double coverage off,’’’ Wayne said. “He looked at me like I was the dude to pick up his trash on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“But that was my mentality. I understood that. I knew that’s how it had to be. And when I was in Marv’s spot, I was like, ‘That’s what it is. I need that.’’’
Batman needed Robin. A No. 1 wideout needs a No. 2.
Does that guy’s body type or style matter?
“I don’t give a (darn) what it is,’’ Wayne said. “We just need help.’’
Clearly, Wayne’s still wired with Colts-like neurological cables. He frequently mentions we, not they. He retired after the 2014 season following a 14-year career in Indy that has him eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time.
“We need everybody to go out there and do whatever they’ve got to do to hold it down and take the pressure off the next man,’’ Wayne said.
The Colts need someone to help ease the pressure Hilton faces virtually every game. He’s been the undeniable focal point of the passing game since Wayne’s departure, and management repeatedly has failed to provide him a legitimate running mate.
Consider Indy’s second-leading wideout in terms of receptions post-Wayne: Chester Rogers, Donte Moncrief twice and Phillip Dorsett. Moncrief wasn’t re-signed last offseason after four lackluster seasons while Dorsett, a 2015 first-round pick, was traded to New England last September following two quiet years.
Also, Indy’s attempts at bringing in free-agent help has fallen well short of expectations: Donnie Avery (the best of the bunch, by default), Darrius Heyward-Bey, Hakeem Nicks, Andre Johnson, Kamar Aikens, Ryan Grant. We’re not counting Dontrelle Inman, who was signed in mid-October and finished the season as a solid No. 2.
Coach Frank Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni were adept at “scheming’’ receivers open in 2018. Thirteen different players caught at least one touchdown pass from Andrew Luck, including six wideouts: Hilton, Rogers, Grant, Inman, Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson.
However, at some point it’s all about talent and a wideout’s ability to win one-on-one matchups.
“When you talk about a No. 1 receiver, Nick Sirianni likes to use the terms, is he a dog?’’ Reich said. “What are the characteristics of a dog? The No. 1 characteristic is I can put him over there one-on-one, it’s third-and-5 and I know we’ve got to throw a slant route or a stop route and he’s going to win a very high percentage of the time.
“At some point, I think that’s really important to have that trait.’’
So, you need two dogs?
“If you’re a dog owner,’’ Reich replied with a smile, “you know that two dogs are always better than one.’’
Hilton clearly is a top dog. He’s a four-time Pro Bowl selection who’s topped 1,000 yards in five of his seven seasons.
“Obviously, T.Y. is in that category,’’ Reich said. “He had a phenomenal year. We have other players that did a really good job for us that we can count on in very specific situations, and played winning football for us.
“But obviously when you’ve got two guys that are in the category of a T.Y. Hilton, they can’t just roll the coverage to one guy, and we feel like we’ve got (Eric) Ebron inside and some other challenges.’’
The challenge, insisted Wayne, is getting better at the position.
“It needs some work,’’ he said. “I think we all know that. But that’s what this time is for, to see what new talent is out there. Free agent, draft pick, whatever it is.’’