NFL Indianapolis Colts

5 Ways the Indianapolis Colts Can Cope With the Loss of Reggie Wayne

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5 Ways the Indianapolis Colts Can Cope With the Loss of Reggie Wayne

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After Peyton Manning left the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, there was a lot of speculation over who would follow him. It was thought that wherever Peyton went, Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday and Dallas Clark would follow. Manning signed with the Denver Broncos, Saturday went to the Green Bay Packers and Clark ended up signing on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The only one that stayed with Indianapolis was Wayne.

Wayne had been overshadowed by fellow receiver Marvin Harrison for years with the Colts. The two of them formed a deadly tandem that led the Colts to having one of the most potent offenses in football and a Super Bowl ring. Since Harrison retired after the 2008 season, Wayne has had three of the best four years of his career. With the exception of 2011 where he had Dan Orlovsky, Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins throwing the ball to him, he has had at least 100 receptions and 1,200 yards in those seasons.

In 2012, the Colts selected Andrew Luck No. 1 overall to replace Manning, and he and Wayne formed an instant chemistry. Wayne finished the 2012 season with 106 catches for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns. He also played in all 16 games for an 11th consecutive season while leading the Colts to the playoffs.

In 2013, Wayne was on his way to another solid season for the Colts. The now 5-2 Colts are coming off a huge Sunday Night football win over the previously unbeaten Denver Broncos in Peyton's first game back in Indy. Everything was perfect for the Colts until Wayne suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter. On Monday, the Colts were given the news that Wayne would be missing the rest of the 2013 season with a torn ACL and they would have to play a game without him for the first time since September 30, 2001.

Wayne has been a model of stability for the Colts organization. There is no way for them to replace his talent and leadership at this point in the season, and there is no way for them to find someone that takes as much pride in the organization as he does. While they can't replace him, these are the ways they will have to cope with the loss of Wayne if they hope to make the playoffs.

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5. Have T.Y. Hilton Step Up

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T.Y. Hilton is the most electrifying playmaker the Indianapolis Colts have. He averages 15.3 yards per catch and also is their punt returner. Going into the season the Colts listed Hilton as their No. 3 receiver behind Wayne and Darrius Heyward-Bey. It may be time to strip Hilton of the punt return duties and make him the focal point of the passing offense. Hilton has shown the ability to put up big numbers when he is targeted often, so the Colts can rely on him and hope Wayne comes back healthy in 2014.

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4. Sign A Free Agent Receiver

Free Agent
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If the Indianapolis Colts feel that Reggie Wayne can be ready for next season, they could add a decent receiver through free agency to play just this year. There are guys like Brandon Lloyd, Randy Moss and Deion Branch that are available and could serve as a band-aid.

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3. Trade for a Receiver

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If the status of Wayne playing in 2014 is up in the air, the Indianapolis Colts may be forced to look for a more permanent solution at the position. Receivers like Josh Gordon and Hakeem Nicks can be acquired before the deadline and could instantly step into a No. 1 receiver role. However, after trading a first round pick for Trent Richardson, the Colts may not be willing to trade a second or third rounder to upgrade the position.

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2. Acquire a Tight End

Tight End
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Indianapolis Colts drafted Andrew Luck, they also went out and got his college offensive coordinator and drafted two tight ends. Luck's offense at Stanford included plenty of two tight end sets, and that was supposed to transition over to the NFL. After Dwayne Allen was placed on IR before the season, the Colts have not had the personnel to go back to it. If they can acquire Tony Gonzalez, Fred Davis or Marcedes Lewis, they can go back to the system that Luck is comfortable with.

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1. Run The Ball More

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Indianapolis has passed the ball 28 more times than they have run it this season. If you look at their team, they rank 23rd in the NFL in passing and 8th in rushing which proves they are effective when they run the ball. They traded a first round pick to get Trent Richardson from the Browns, and they have former first round pick Donald Brown performing well as a backup. It may be time to increase each of their workloads by five carries a game and start playing more of a clock control style of football.