While the Colts rookie class has garnered a bulk of the attention this year on the offensive side of the ball for Indianapolis, it’s the veteran of the unit who is putting up career numbers in his 12th NFL season.
Reggie Wayne has provided a constant target for quarterback Andrew Luck with a reliable set of hands that seems to come up with the ball continually on third downs.
Wayne’s 69 catches leads the NFL and his 931 receiving yards is good for second in the league. As Wayne nears his 34th birthday, those numbers don’t come as a surprise to Bruce Arians.
“He works out and keeps himself in tremendous shape and I think he got rejuvenated in the fact that he basically is a rookie in this offense having come off the left side, being on the right side, being in the slot, being in motion, doing all the things that his abilities allow him to do because he’s so smart,” Arians said.
“I think he sees that can extend his career for a while and he’s in full tilt. It’s a pleasure to have a guy like that, with his work ethic and his brains on your football team be your leader.”
While several key cogs on the Colts offense moved on following the 2011 regular season, Wayne re-signed with the team that drafted him back in 2001.
Learning a new offense scheme and creating a rapport with a rookie quarterback was going to be needed the offseason.
Even with Luck missing part of OTAs due to finishing up his degree at Stanford, Wayne made sure the two got the necessarily work in prior to training camp including a trip down to the University of Miami.
“I think they stayed in such constant communication from when they were allowed to talk and then the time they spent in Florida and all the days up here in the summer,” Arians said.
“It’s not like he’s sitting on that left side and you just throw balls to him like you used to and you get the route tree now. He’s got 50 or 60 different alignments and different routes. I think (the success) is a credit to both of them, how much hard work they’ve put in on and off the field.”
For good reason, Luck has found himself targeting No. 87 more than any other player during the first nine games this season.
With so many fellow rookies at the skill positions surrounding Luck, his relationship with Wayne has been vital to the offense’s success.
“He’s been awesome to be around, so that’s been great for me,” Luck said. “You hear a big name like Reggie and think he going to be like standoffish or look down on you, which hasn’t been the case at all. I don’t know if I’ve been surprised but it’s been really nice getting to know him and being in the same locker room with him.”
When Arians took the reigns as offensive coordinator he had a hunch of who is quarterback would be and he also had a strong feeling that a Pro Bowl receiver would be returning to the fold.
“I wasn’t (surprised) because he’s a Colt and he wanted to be a Colt bad,” Arians said of Wayne’s free agency. “He’s a legend here and he’s going to go into the Hall of Fame.”
“He always wanted to be here and as soon as Chuck (Pagano) made that call, it was just a matter of, ‘Yeah I’m coming.’ He knew what he was getting into and I think he’s excited more than anybody with the change. He’s jumped in and he’s really excited about it. You can’t put a quantified value on how much his leadership means to our team.
Tags: Andrew Luck, bruce arians, chuck pagano, Reggie Wayne
Posted in Colts Blog
Over the past few seasons, the tight end position in the NFL has been ever evolving.
With offenses in the NFL continuing to move the ball more frequently through the air, the chance to find mismatches in the passing game is something every offensive coordinator is searching for each week.
Tight ends around the league have seen a direct correlation to that and the New England Patriots have been very active in targeting their own in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
The tight end duo set NFL records last year combining for 169 catches and 2,237 receiving yards between them.
Colts tight end Weslye Saunders is the same age (23) as Gronkowski and Hernandez and has been a close observer of their talents.
“Obviously I’ve been following those guys since high school, since we came out the same years. They are two great players and our defense is going to have to worry about them,” Saunders said.
Gronkowski has been a constant threat in the red zone for the Patriots, with 36 touchdown catches since the beginning of the 2010 season.
“Tom (Brady) just puts it up to (Gronkowski) and allows him to use his frame and ability to go get the ball,” outside linebacker Justin Hickman said. “He causes mismatch problems with his size, speed. He does a good job using his body to get open in his breaks.”
Colts interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians wouldn’t divulge any game planning Indianapolis is planning for Gronkowski this weekend and knows the difficultly of limiting the touches for someone with that frame and quickness.
“I think he’s the biggest and fastest (tight end) that’s come along in a while,” Arians said of Gronkowski. “I don’t think it’s a surprise because coming out of college, if his back held up you knew he was going to be an outstanding player. He was an outstanding blocker and he could run and catch.”
Hernandez has battled an ankle injury over the last couple of weeks and hasn’t played since the Patriots 29-26 win over the Jets on Oct. 21.
While his status for this weekend remains in questions, Arians has seen the Patriots remain among the league’s most potent offenses thanks to a pair of tight ends leading the production.
“I think they’ve streamlined and changed what they’ve done over the last two or three years because of Aaron Hernandez and Gronkowski,” Arians said of the Patriots.
“I remember playing them when they were nothing but three wideouts out on the field and a tight end, and he was just out there. They’ve evolved because they do a fanatics job of adapting to their personnel. They obviously have wanted to have that style so they’ve stockpiled tight ends and that’s what they do.”
Tags: bruce arians, Justin Hickman, Weslye Saunders
Posted in Colts Blog
While the rest of the football world looks on like a stunned mullet (that means they look on with amazement at what we have achieved), Colts supporters the world over are not even the slightest bit shocked. When people ask me how is my team going in the NFL, I answer, “no worries, we’re COLTSTRONG!”.
Indianapolis Colts are currently eighth on the NFL ladder, just below Green Bay and just above the Patriots. No one outside the Colts expected it, least of all the football media but when I was sitting next to Brain Wise at my first live football game, watching the Colts play the Vikings at Lucas Oil Stadium, we both nodded quiet agreement the we wouldn’t be surprised to see the team make the playoffs. Yet, not one Colts’ supporter cares about that this season. What we are watching is a group of men quietly going about their business. And their business is to build up a football team. However, every last man and woman either on the team or behind the scenes cares more about Coach Pagano getting better than what we are achieving on the field, for we remain CHUCKSTRONG in our hearts as well. The people of Indianapolis have big hearts and there’s room to be both, Coltstrong and Chuckstrong. So when someone asks us “Ow-ya-goin, mate?”, our answer is simple; “we’re good, we’re Chuckstrong.”
Now the media feel we may be living a fantasy; that we will fall over. But our dream has already been realized and it’s not the 6-3 result, it’s the Coach taking the first steps on the road to recovery (and they said we were no good on the road! Huh!); and it’s Andrew Luck quietly learning communication with his new team mates; and it’s our offensive boys, talking quietly to each other and performing as they are; and it’s our defensive team not just talking the talk but walking the walk. To every last man on the team from your loyal fans, THANK YOU! You make us proud.
While everyone around the league is debating who’s in who’s out this season, the big news for Colts supporters is that our team is on track for the building of a new era. That’s what Jim and his team promised for this season and that’s what they have delivered. Anything else is a bonus but whether we make the play offs or nor? Well, as they say in Australia, “I don’t give a rat’s!”.
On a very personal note, when my wife and I were in Indianapolis last September, everyone made us feel so welcomed. You people really do have big hearts and warmth in your souls so I thank you for treating us so well. It’s mid-afternoon here is Sydney as I write this blog so I am closing off now because I’m going down to the local hospital to donate blood in honor of players and people of Indianapolis who have done so much in the fight against cancer and, of course, in honor of our Coach. Meanwhile we will see what happens this coming week on the gridiron.
Posted in Voice of the Fans
Darius Butler sat and watched, waiting for that call.
After being cut by the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 31, Butler found himself every Sunday watching NFL games.
It took three weeks, but that call eventually came from the Indianapolis Colts.
“I spent some time with my family and obviously calling my agent everyday, every time I saw a guy go down or somebody get hurt or released. You just keep your eye on it because you want to play so bad,” Butler said on the ‘Pagano Show’ on Monday night
“Watching those games, it kind of re-lit a fire under my butt. I felt whenever I got my chance, I was going to do whatever it took to take full advantage of it.”
Butler has done more than take advantage of the opportunity, recording three takeaways in his first start last Thursday against the Jaguars.
His third quarter interception returned for a touchdown gave the Colts a 21-3 lead and helped keep the momentum with the visitors.
“On that play I kind of anticipated the play, because of the formation that I got,” Butler said of the 11-yard interception return. “Once I read it, I took a chance on it and made a play.”
He added a game-clinching fourth quarter interception after a Chad Henne pass caromed off a couple Colts defenders.
Butler joined the Colts following a Week 3 loss to the Jaguars in which the Colts gave up an 80-yard touchdown in the game’s waning minutes.
When Butler walked into the locker room the following week, he was greeted by college teammates from Connecticut in running back Donald Brown and linebacker Scott Lutrus.
But it was also the guys in his position group that has made it a smooth transition for the fourth-year pro.
“From the first day I got there, guys kind of took me in and helped me out. Guys like (Antoine) Bethea and (Tom) Zbikowski and (Jerraud) Powers just kind of giving me the nuances of the defense. I feel comfortable right now,” Butler said.
It will be a bit of homecoming this weekend for Butler as he was drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
He played 29 games in his two seasons with New England before being cut during the first month of the 2011 regular season.
With Powers being placed on injured reserve on Monday afternoon, the starting spot is Butler’s and he is more than grateful for it.
“This is my fourth year and you only get so many chances, especially on this level with so many guys in and out every year,” Butler said. “It’s rare you get two opportunities so I’m blessed to get another opportunity here with the Colts and I’m trying to make the best of it.”
Tags: antoine bethea, darius butler, jerraud powers, tom zbikowski
Posted in Colts Blog