Philip Wheeler may be next to break out

ANDERSON, Ind. -- Gray Brackett earned himself a new contract. Clint Session earned notoriety as a reliable big-play guy.

Meanwhile Philip Wheeler, the Colts other starting linebacker for the final 10 games in the 2009 AFC Championship season, operated in relative media obscurity.

He’s the least talkative of the three, and on the strongside he does more of the dirty work though he managed to match Session in tackles per regular season start with 7.4.

Now expectations for Wheeler are very high and he could be the team’s next breakout defender even as he figures to continue to leave the field when the team goes to its nickel package.

He said he’s trying not to behave like an incumbent.

“I guess a lot of people think it should be different, but it shouldn’t be,” he said. “I need to work hard. Either way I should work it like it’s not my spot, that way I can get better and be the best I can be.”

Both Jim Caldwell and Brackett said Wheeler is blossoming.

“He’s obviously physically the most imposing out of the group, so when he gets that mental aspect of his game down, I think he’s going to be a deadly player,” Brackett said. “I think he’s physical at the point, a bigger guy who uses leverage well. I think he’s working at being cleaner in his pass drops, maybe working some more on his one-on-one coverage.”

Said Caldwell: “He’s always been a guy who’s very focused and enthusiastic about playing, but I think he has a bit more confidence this year. You can see it. You can see it in the meeting rooms. He is certainly pretty assertive about what he knows, about what he perceives on the field.

“He reacts a lot quicker than he reacted last year. It’s not so much of a learning process in that regard, but I do think that he brings up a valuable amount of experience coming into this year. So you can see in terms of how he’s practicing at this point.”

Wheeler, I suspect can do without any additional attention from the likes of me. But if he makes the plays he’s talking about making, it’s going to arrive anyway.