The Indianapolis Colts have been hit with a bad case of the injury bug this year. They already lost tight end Dwayne Allen, guard Donald Thomas and running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard to the year due to injuries, and now the biggest one of all, Reggie Wayne, joins them on that list.
Wayne tore his ACL late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Andrew Luck threw a very bad ball towards him. He tried to catch it and bent his knee awkwardly doing so. Now, what’s next for the Colts?
Until they can bring another receiver in, they must rely on the ground game. They already tried to be 50/50 on offense between run and pass. They wanted to keep defenses guessing, but fans were growing tired of that as they wanted to see Luck pass more. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton lost a lot of fans with his play-calling this year and now he may lose more.
Indianapolis only has three receivers on this team now – Darrius Heyward-Bey, T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill. Throw in Coby Fleener in the tight end spot, and that’s all Luck has to throw to. Do you think that combination could really lead a team to the Super Bowl?
This combo has a career 294 receptions for 4,236 yards and 27 touchdowns. Compare that to Wayne’s 1,006 receptions, 13,566 yards and 80 touchdowns and there’s some trouble at that spot. Where are they going to come up with 712 receptions, 9,330 yards and 53 touchdowns with that second-year foursome having eight combined years in the NFL?
Sure, they will win some games still and it’s not all gloom and doom on Indianapolis’ season, but the run game must step up as they’re going to be worked a lot more.
The run sets up the pass. These four receiving targets fail to get separation to get open sometimes. That puts Luck in a bad situation as he has no one to throw to. That’s why Wayne was so effective — he was Luck’s safety valve. He always got open when Luck needed him to. Now the run game will be the safety valve.
Indianapolis ranks eighth in the NFL on the ground, averaging 129.3 yards per game rushing. With Trent Richardson and Donald Brown, this team can still pound you. Denver ranked tops in the league on rush defense but the Colts outplayed them, gaining 121 yards. That type of production where they’re averaging nearly four yards per carry can keep this team clicking.
Luckily, they have a bye week to get things sorted out and play five straight favorable games where the loss of Wayne shouldn’t hurt them, but it’s going to be later in the year and in the postseason where it could affect this young squad. The run game will replace Wayne for now and they need to be effective.
Eric Smith is the Colts Beat Writer for Rant Sports. He’s covered the team the past four seasons and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru