The Indianapolis Colts didn’t have much time to cheer after a victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday night. Nearly 12 hours after the huge victory, the team confirmed wide receiver Reggie Wayne tore his ACL in a freak incident late in the game. Wayne was going for a ball severely underthrown by Andrew Luck and his knee went out while doing so. Tests confirmed Monday morning that he will miss the rest of the season.
This is a huge loss to the Colts as many fans are wondering what happens now. The team is 5-2 and leading the division by two games heading into a bye week. Is this season now lost? Are they still a Super Bowl contender?
The answers aren’t there yet, but this will affect them for sure. How much isn’t known, but the Colts will still have enough to make the playoffs. How far can they go will be on the legs of the ground game and how well Luck can adapt to his favorite target being gone.
Wayne has played in 189 straight games and is close to breaking every receiving franchise record. He has 13,566 yards and 80 touchdowns on 1,006 receptions. He was Luck’s safety valve and got open when needed. Now, it’s time for the younger receivers to step up big time.
Indianapolis is already without tight end Dwayne Allen, running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw and guard Donald Thomas for the year due to injuries. This one stings the most.
The Colts only have Darrius Heyward-Bey, T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill as healthy receivers. Mix in tight end Coby Fleener, and that’s all Luck has to throw to. All four of those guys are very inconsistent with dump drops, bad routes and don’t get open at times. Now, they will need to pick up the slack or this season could spiral out of control quickly.
Hilton has 27 receptions and 412 yards this season with two touchdowns. Heyward-Bey scored his first touchdown last night as he only has 190 yards on 18 receptions. Brazill has yet to catch a pass this year and only has 11 receptions and one touchdown for his young career.
Counting Fleener, this group has 67 receptions for 837 yards and six touchdowns among four guys. That’s only 16 receptions and 209 yard average per player for the season.
Indianapolis may need to go out and find a veteran receiver. Unfortunately, a trade isn’t likely as they already traded next year’s first-round pick on Trent Richardson. I do expect the Colts to run even more now since Wayne is out for the year, and for them to get this young receiving core adapted to become top targets.
This may not affect the Colts’ playoff hopes, but will make or break their season depending on how they respond.
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