Upon hearing the words “Indianapolis Colts” and “bust”, the mind automatically pulls up a picture of “blockbuster trade” acquisition and second-year running back Trent Richardson. While Colts fans, coaches and senior management alike have been left bitterly disappointed with Richardson’s production thus far, there is a certain wide receiver in the Colts locker-room who is quietly grateful that his own embarrassing performances have somewhat flown under the radar with the spotlight firmly set on the young running back.
Now in his fifth year in the league, Darrius Heyward-Bey arrived in Indianapolis during the offseason carrying with him a reputation for having all the physical attributes required to succeed at the wide receiver position. 6-foot-2, 210-pounds of blistering speed, Heyward-Bey recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.30 seconds at the NFL Combine in 2009, one of the top-ten fastest times to be recorded since the implementation of electronic timing in 2000. Despite these physical gifts, Heyward-Bey is much maligned for being a “track star” who has failed to transform himself into a legitimate pro footballer.
After cutting Donnie Avery in the offseason, the Colts signed Heyward-Bey to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the hopes of replacing Avery’s production while adding some veteran leadership to a young receiving corps. The result has been an unmitigated disaster. The primary issue for Heyward-Bey has undoubtedly been his inability to make catches. Not critical third-down catches, not hard catches. Just catches. His current receiving statistics show a meager 309 catching yards with a solitary touchdown on the season. The final straw came in Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans when a fifth dropped pass of the year cost him a starting position and he has since been relegated to the special teams unit. Heyward-Bey’s disappointing season is amplified when you look at the man he replaced on the roster. Avery, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, has 596 receiving yards on the season and leads the team in yards per catch for players with ten receptions or more. Of course, comparing players on different teams is far from an exact science, but suggesting the Colts should have kept Avery on the roster this year is rather self-explanatory.
By far the biggest frustration of Heyward-Bey’s season has been his inability to rise to the occasion after Reggie Wayne suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 7. Heyward-Bey quickly became the veteran receiver on the roster with T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Lavon Brazill, Da’Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen all being first or second-year players. He has undeniably failed to adopt a leadership role within the offense and has found himself surplus to requirements. The fact Rogers, a rookie, and Whalen, who missed his entire first season through injury, are leading the Colts into the playoffs this weekend while a fifth year veteran sits on the sidelines is quite ridiculous. Heyward-Bey is more than capable of making plays on special teams, but this is a disappointing end to a season which promised so much more from Maryland native.