INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This was supposed to be the breakout season, when the first-round draft pick who endured a quiet rookie season took that quantum leap in Year 2.
It hasn’t happened with Phillip Dorsett. Not yet, and only three games remain before the Indianapolis Colts head into an uncertain offseason.
“We need him. It’s time,’’ offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said Thursday. “It’s time he needs to step up, and he understands that and realizes that. We’ve talked a lot about that.
“I fully expect him to do that and step up and (this) be his time.’’
The Colts take a 6-7 and flickering playoff hopes into Sunday’s road test against the Minnesota Vikings. In all likelihood, they’ll be without third-year wideout Donte Moncrief, who suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday’s loss to Houston and has yet to practice this week.
Someone must step up and help divert attention from T.Y. Hilton, Andrew Luck’s unquestioned go-to receiver. Hilton is 6th in the NFL in targets (127), tied for 7th in receptions (78) and 2nd in yards (1,203).
That someone, Sunday and beyond, needs to be Dorsett. Remember, general manager Ryan Grigson invested his 2015 first-round pick, No. 29 overall, in the speed demon out of Miami when conventional wisdom cried out for a pass rusher, a cornerback, a linebacker, anyone who would offer immediate assistance to a defense that lacked difference-making talent.
Not to rub it in, but shortly after the Colts grabbed Dorsett, New England snatched Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown with the 32nd pick and the New York Giants selected Alabama safety Landon Collins at No. 33. The latter is in the discussion for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Dorsett? We’re still waiting for him to approach expectations. In 23 games, five as a starter, he has 45 receptions for 639 yards and two touchdowns.
Among the 18 receivers taken in the first four rounds of the 2015 draft, his receptions rank 11th, his yards 8th and his TDs tied for 10th.
Also, it’s obvious Dorsett has yet to find his comfort zone with Luck. When targeting Dorsett, Luck is just 35-of-71 (49.3 percent) for 565 yards with three touchdowns, three interceptions and a 72.8 passer rating.
Dorsett is unmoved by any criticism.
“I’m getting better every day,’’ he said. “That’s all I can look for when I go out there for practice, getting better every day.
“As long as I know I’m getting better, I’m fine with it.’’
However, Dorsett is coming off one of his least effective games. In the loss to the Texans, he managed just three catches for 19 yards despite being targeted a season-high eight times.
“Obviously Phillip was disappointed,’’ Chudzinski said. “We talked the other day (and) he was disappointed in how he played. He’s committed to being great and being a better player.’’
While it appeared he might have dropped two, maybe three passes against Houston, two premium statistics sites had Dorsett with one drop.
“For real? Really drops? One,’’ Dorsett said. “A lot of people don’t see what happens. They don’t watch film.
“But, yeah, one.’’
The number aside – and dropped passes are without question in the eye of the beholder – Dorsett was one of several players unable to make a difference with so much on the line against the Texans.
“I was cool,’’ he said. “Everybody makes mistakes. It is what it is. It’s football. You’ve just got to keep on moving.’’
Hilton made it a point to stay in Dorsett’s ear as the game unfolded.
His message: Trust yourself. You know how to play football. You know how to catch the football. There’s going to be plays you ain’t going to make, but you want to make the majority of them.
“For me, I was just telling him to keep your head up,’’ Hilton said. “There’s nothing to be mad about. Just catch it. Phil knows how to play football. Phil knows how to catch it.’’
Dorsett insisted his confidence has never wavered. Not against the Texans, not in any of the other 22 games he’s played.
“Things happen,’’ he said. “You can’t let that affect your confidence. Look throughout the league and things happen. You can’t let it get you down.’’
Dorsett dismissed the idea his second season – 27 receptions, 414 yards, one TD – has been frustrating, and that his brief career with the Colts a disappointment. He also doesn’t listen when critics question whether Grigson might have whiffed on his second first-round pick in three years. Remember 2013? And Bjoern Werner?
“I can’t help what (people say),’’ Dorsett said. “It doesn’t matter to me. Other people, because they’re fans, they look at me and, ‘Oh, this guy has to come in and be this or be that.’ 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. That’s the bad thing about it. Anybody can say anything about anything.’’