INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It was worth reaching out to Reggie Wayne and gauging his interest level in being the next man up in the Indianapolis Colts’ receivers room.
We were joking. Not certain if that was the case with Wayne.
“Of course . . . but it’ll cost them,’’ he replied on his Twitter account.
Of course…. but it'll cost them…
— Reggie Wayne (@ReggieWayne_17) December 2, 2019
Wayne won’t be lured out of retirement. He’s 41 and among the 25 Modern-era Semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.
But who’s next?
Chris Ballard and Frank Reich were discussing that in the aftermath of losing yet another wideout. Chester Rogers suffered a knee fracture on the second play of Sunday’s 31-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans, leaving the Colts with just three healthy players at the position: Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson and Ashton Dulin.
Reich and his offensive staff made the necessary in-game personnel adjustments, and now it’s up to Ballard to do likewise heading into Sunday’s road test against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The options include elevating Chad Williams from the practice squad or bringing in a veteran free agent. That might mean a return of Dontrelle Inman, who offered solid help last season when injuries ravaged the position – 28 catches, 304 yards, three TDs in the final nine games – or another experienced body.
It’s possible help could come from within. While T.Y. Hilton (calf) isn’t expected to play against the Bucs – to this point the team isn’t considering placing him on IR – there’s a chance rookie Parris Campbell could return after missing the last four games with a fractured right hand.
“Too soon to tell,’’ Reich said of Campbell. “We’re optimistic, but I was optimistic last week, to be honest. I was hoping he was going to get there last week, and we didn’t quite get there. That would make you believe there’s a pretty good chance this week.’’
Campbell still must prove to the coaching staff he’s able to do everything necessary – catch the ball, be able to secure it – during practice this week.
“Hopefully, he is, but it’s too early to tell,’’ Reich said.
The Colts have had unwavering support for whomever has had to step up whenever an injury has hit the receivers room. Along with dealing with the injuries to Hilton and Campbell, Devin Funchess’s only season with the team – he signed a one-year, $10 million contract in the offseason – will consist of 36 snaps, three catches and 32 yards in the opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. He broke his left clavicle in the fourth quarter, and it never fully healed.
During training camp, Steve Ishmael suffered a season-ending knee injury, and a dislocated/fractured ankle ended Reece Fountain’s second season.
Further complicating things on offense against the Titans was the absence of Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron (on IR with ankle issues) and running back Marlon Mack (fractured right hand).
Reich never has used injuries as an excuse for the offense failing to do enough. But there’s no denying he and coordinator Nick Sirianni were forced to squeeze a lot out of a crop of largely unheralded players against Tennessee.
Chew on this: all four receivers (Pascal, Rogers, Johnson and Dulin) and tight ends (Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Ross Travis and Matt Stengel) were undrafted.
Makes no difference, insisted Reich.
“I know how Jacoby feels because he feels the same way I felt whenever I played or the way any quarterback feels,’’ he said. “And that is, ‘My guys are my guys, and we’re going to win with whoever we have.’
“And our guys are good. They made a lot of plays on Sunday. We lost the game and we take ownership of that. Jacoby has belief in our receivers. That being said . . . just a general statement about the quarterback position is we all know what the quarterback position entails. You’re 100% reliant on everybody around you.’’
Pascal had seven catches for a career-high 109 yards, and Johnson matched his career high with four receptions for a career-best 55 yards. Dulin’s 13-yard catch was the first of his career. Doyle, meanwhile, was Doyle: six catches, 73 yards, one TD.
But the fact remains the Brissett-led passing game essentially is mixing and matching on a week-to-week basis. And the fact remains the Colts are 1-8 without Hilton in the lineup.
The coaching staff was forced to make sudden and dramatic adjustments once Rogers exited so early in the game. There are several personnel groupings in the game plan: Indy, Hoosier, Colt.
“They all put different guys in different positions,’’ Reich said. “All of a sudden when Chester goes out, now we’ve got to move Zach around and make sure Zach is at spots where he’s going to be the guy getting the ball and yada-yada-yada.
“(The assistant coaches) were taking my call sheet and changing the personnel groups to reflect what we needed to do. It really came off pretty seamless in that regard.’’
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