The Colts cut struggling wide receiver Griff Whalen today and elevated rookie tight end Justice Cunningham to the active roster. Many fans, especially those who watched him play so well at Stanford, believed Whalen could be the next great slot receiver, but he has struggled to gain separation from NFL cornerbacks and struggled to catch the ball with 9 receptions on 20 targets.
Whalen, who missed all of his rookie year with an injury, has only 6 games under his belt, which means he is eligible for the practice squad once again.
From the Colts’ media release:
Cunningham was selected by the Colts in the seventh round (254th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft and was signed to the practice squad on September 2, 2013. At South Carolina, he recorded 50 receptions for 581 yards and one touchdown in 53 games played (23 starts). In 2012, Cunningham was named a team captain and finished the year with career highs of 23 receptions for 324 yards.
Whalen played in six games this season, catching nine passes for 102 yards. He was originally signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent on April 30, 2012 and was signed to the practice squad on October 2, 2013. Whalen was elevated to the active roster on October 28.
Many Colts fans have shown their displeasure with Whalen’s most recent demotion. However, it’s worth noting that many receivers take a couple years to develop into a solid NFL player, and Whalen only began playing the position at Stanford (He was a QB/CB in high school). Currently, Griff has had a better "rookie" season than Pierre Garcon (3 catches, 24 yds.), who went on to be a pretty good receiver. Be patient, Whalen fans, all is not lost.
So, what does this move mean, other than an exchange of two players with interesting names? With no known tight end injuries at the moment, it signifies that Cunningham has earned the chance to show what he can bring to the table. It means Griff has some work to do yet. It means the coaching staff still likes WR/KR David Reed on the active roster. Lastly, it could foretell a chance for rookie WR Da’Rick Rogers to be active for Sunday’s game against Bruce Arians’s Cardinals.
The Colts are still working to replace Reggie Wayne’s production, and they need a third player to demonstrate his reliability to compliment T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener. With Whalen likely headed back to the practice squad, the candidates are now Rogers, fellow WR LaVon Brazill, TE Weslye Saunders, the top two running backs, and possibly Cunningham, if he’s active.