INDIANAPOLIS -- The biggest mystery floating around the Indianapolis Colts’ complex for the past week, and one that will likely continue for the coming weeks, has been how will the team make up for the loss of receiver Reggie Wayne.
There is no replacing Wayne in the lineup. Let’s get that out of the way now. The Colts will attempt to do it by committee.
But if there’s one player that will have some added pressure on him, it’s Darrius Heyward-Bey.
The pressure can be looked at that he’s only produced 18 catches for 190 yards this season or it could be that he’s now technically the team’s No. 1 receiver.
“No pressure,” Heyward-Bey said when asked Monday afternoon. “I was just talking to [quarterback] Andrew [Luck] about that. We all work hard and our craft, that’s what we expect to do week in and week out.”
All eyes will be on the receiver spot every time Luck steps back in the pocket and throws to Heyward-Bey, T.Y. Hilton or whoever manages to step up to be the No. 3 receiver – it’s anybody’s guess on that spot right now.
Miscues will likely be followed by, “Reggie could have made that catch," or "Reggie would have known to get to the first-down marker.”
That’s what happens when you attempt to replace a future Hall of Famer. But Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft, has soaked in everything Wayne has taught him since the first time the two met after he signed with the Colts during the offseason.
“Things don’t always go how the coaches draw it up,” Heyward-Bey said. “Reggie has taught me that’s OK. I’m a very black and white type of guy. I’m not a gray area [guy], but that’s what football is, a gray area. Every day coming to work and putting in that grind, I thought I was putting in a good grind in Oakland, I worked my butt off, but he took it to another level. He doesn’t come out of any reps. Me and T.Y. have definitely taken that in.”
Saying Heyward-Bey has gotten off to a slow start would be an understatement. But not all of it can be put on him. He’s been listed as the team’s No. 2 receiver all season, but his 34 targets are fourth on the team behind Wayne, Hilton and tight end Coby Fleener.
Heyward-Bey officially only has one dropped pass this season, but there was one play that has stood out. Luck threw a 60-yard pass down the sideline that went off Heyward-Bey’s hands in the Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 14. Elias Sports Bureau did not consider it to be a drop on what should have been a touchdown on the play.
“You give him a butt tap and tell him, ‘I’m coming back to you, so be ready to go,’ when those things happen,” Luck said. “He might not get a ball for couple of series, but he’s going to work as hard as he can and when that ball comes he’ll be ready for it.”
Heyward-Bey got the “monkey” off his back, according to Luck, when he caught his first touchdown pass of the season -- an 11 yarder -- from Luck the following week against Denver.
Heyward-Bey can play on the outside and in the slot, but coach Chuck Pagano said they plan to use him the same way they've been using him all season. He’s averaging 10.7 yards a reception and his season long is 27 yards.
“He’s gotten better,” Pagano said. “We know from an athletic standpoint, speed standpoint, talent. Now it’s just a matter of he’s going to have to take on a bigger role, both in the classroom as far as leadership role and then on the football field. We feel like he’s trending in the right direction.”