With a packed group of very talented wide receivers on the Colts heading into the 2010 season, the future of each player, in terms of the amount of work they will receive, is in question. What tends to not be in question, particularly with regard to development, is that the wide receivers will be better in the coming season than they were a year ago.
One player in particular who will likely look much more comfortable in the Colts offense is second-year slot receiver Austin Collie, who is going through his second summer in Indianapolis. “This year… you just come back a little more at home,” he said. “You know all of the guys and you feel a little more comfortable with the offense and what (Colts quarterback) Peyton (Manning) wants from you.”
Despite having a very successful rookie season, putting out the highest offensive production as a rookie receiver from the 2009 class, he realizes there is more work to do. “I feel a lot more comfortable than last year, so that’s obviously more fun. I have a lot to learn. I’m just coming off my rookie season. I have a lot… of things I need to work on.”
Still, he has come a long way from a season ago, “This time last year, I was running around not sure what I was supposed to do. I had no idea how the route was supposed to be run or what I was supposed to do on each assignment, but this year, just being out thee, I feel 10 times more confident and more comfortable.” How that increased comfort will translate to improvement for the coming season depends primarily on Collie.
If he works hard, continues to get stronger and develop an even closer relationship with Manning, he may well be on the verge of solidifying himself as a marquee player in the Colts offense. Head Coach Jim Caldwell seems to think that Collie will pull his weight to reach a higher level, “He’s got the kind of work habits, and he is really diligent about everything that he does that would lead you to believe that you are going to see some improvement. There is no question about it. He is in early. He stays late. He works extremely hard.”
While coach confidence in players can be somewhat misleading during the developmental stages of each season, there is a sense that Collie is an exception. Coaches expressed a lot of confidence in him as a rookie after they had a chance to take their first look at him on the field. The confidence translated into five starts, regular contributions in all 16 games, 60 receptions, 676 yards, and seven touchdowns in the regular season.
In the post-season Collie started one of three contests and made 17 receptions for 241 yards and two touchdowns. His performance in the AFC Championship game against the New York Jets set the franchise single-game post-season record for a rookie at 123 receiving yards, with seven receptions and a touchdown. Collie had 105 receiving yards in the second-half alone.
What is even more encouraging for fans who have a great deal of respect and pride in the Colts organization is hearing how close the players are on the team. Collie said, “I’m closer here with the guys than I was in college… I’m very blessed and all of us are very blessed to be part of this organization, and to be part of such a tight team.”
The Colts are on track to see a lot of their young players continue to improve. Despite all of the contract turmoil and holdouts, comments by young players like Collie indicate that everyone still feels at home and enjoys playing together. It is very encouraging as the team takes a break before training camp in August.