The Indianapolis Colts could have a conundrum on their hands at wide receiver, not just in 2011 but moving forward as well. If one simply looks at the talent and potential that was on the roster in 2010, an argument could be made that wide receiver is one of the strongest units on the team.
Now, there seems to be more questions than answers.Consider that wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez is sitting on a hot seat heading toward final cut downs. He was a first round selection in 2007 and had a promising start to his career. All signs indicated that 2009 would be a breakout season, and I predicted that it would be his first 1,000 yard effort.
Will he make the team? If he doesn’t, who takes his place? Granted, no matter how talented a player is, he only has value to his team if he is on the field. But without Gonzalez on the roster, it hurts the roster on paper.
Will Austin Collie’s new Simpson prototype helmet help reduce concussions? If it does not, where will his career go if he does suffer another concussion? He turned into one of the team’s most potent receiving weapons in 2010. Losing him would be a huge blow.
Pierre Garcon is one of the most athletic wide receivers in the National Football League. He has the potential to absolutely dominate. Will he learn to focus and catch the easy passes? If not, he could very well contribute to shortening one drive, only to make an impressive grab for a touchdown two drives later.
Will that trade-off win the Colts more games than it loses them? When will he drop a pass that cripples the team’s chances?
Reggie Wayne will have to begin fading in production at some point. Smart money says that 2011 will likely be the last dominant season of his career. Will the team re-sign the veteran receiver when the season ends? If so, will it be anything more than a one-year deal?
Even Wayne has dealt with knee issues over his last two seasons that hurt his production, especially during the playoffs. If that occurs again in 2011, can the team overcome it?
Blair White showed real potential in 2010, though it is clear that not all fans recognized or appreciated it. Now he sits on the physically unable to perform list. If he starts the season on that list and is unable to contribute until Week 7, the team could be down only to Wayne, Garcon, and Gonzalez with regular season experience.
Signing an aging veteran receiver like T.J. Houshmandzedeh or Randy Moss could be a one-year stop-gap, assuming either receiver will be able to produce at a high level. Otherwise, Indianapolis will have to turn to one or more undrafted players that are already on the roster.
Smart money says David Gilreath has probably played his way onto the roster as the team’s punt returner, but does he have the ability at receiver to be a regular season contributor if he is needed? Until Manning has a chance to work with Gilreath and get his timing down — something he has not had a chance to do as a result of his surgery and subsequent healing process — one would have to assume things could be somewhat difficult for the rookie.
Even veteran tight end Dallas Clark is returning to the team after a season-ending wrist injury. How will that affect him, if at all? He is already at the age where it is reasonable to expect his production to begin declining in the near future.
There is a chance that everything will come together at just the right time for Indy’s talented veterans. White and Gonzalez could both return prior to the season, or early enough to keep the unit together.
Garcon could improve catch rate. Collie’s helmet could be a revolutionary breakthrough in concussion reduction technology. Wayne could continue to play inspired football and could be past his knee issues.
Gilreath could be a young star at receiver who only failed to show that in college due to playing on one of the best rushing teams in the nation.
That is an awful lot of “coulds,” though.
While it is completely reasonable for Colts fans to stay hopeful that everything breaks the right way, there may be more questions at wide receiver than there are answers in Indianapolis.