Colts could face tough decisions at WR

INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s only natural for a receiver like Da'Rick Rogers or Griff Whalen to look over his shoulder and wonder how the other player at that position is doing.

The Indianapolis Colts are set (barring any kind of injury) with Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief as their top four receivers.

That leaves Rogers and Whalen and the remaining receivers on the roster competing for one or two spots on the roster at that position.

Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said wondering how others are doing in the competition is the absolute wrong approach to take.

“Looking at the numbers is the worst thing you can do,” Hasselbeck said. “My advice to those guys is to not look at the guy next to you. You’re not competing with him necessarily. You’re competing against everybody playing football because teams are always looking to find players to help make their team better. Just worry about yourself, do the best job you can. Make the most of your opportunities.”

The Colts haven’t zeroed in on how many receivers they plan to keep on the roster. It wouldn’t be surprising if they kept six receivers, especially since veteran Reggie Wayne is coming off a torn ACL.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult because you see those guys making plays and doing great things,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “They’ve all had their moments. There’s a lot of guys just trying to make a case for themselves, so these next couple weeks are going to be very, very important for all those guys. Obviously we’re in a position now much better than any time since we’ve been here as far as the roster goes and the cutdowns.”

Rogers and Whalen are the front-runners for the final position or two at receiver.

Both have had their moments at different times.

Rogers spent most of last season on the practice squad before being called up and eventually having his first 100-yard receiving game against Cincinnati. The Colts are enamored with Rogers’ size (6-foot-3) and athleticism. But Rogers, who had maturity issues while in college, got off to a slow start in training camp and was outplayed by Whalen.

I asked a Colts official about Rogers’ lack of production in camp, and he responded, “Just wait until the lights come on. He’ll be fine.”

That person was right.

It started with Rogers making a 45-yard reception in the preseason opener against the New York Jets. Then he had a 14-yard touchdown reception against the New York Giants. Both of those passes were thrown by Hasselbeck.

“He was someone I invested a lot into last year,” Hasselbeck said. “I worked with him a lot. I like him, I trust him. Da’Rick has done a nice job of making big plays in the preseason, but he’s got a ton of room for improvement as far as earning the trust of the starting quarterback and the coaches.”

You might as well call Whalen "Mr. Reliable." He doesn’t have exceptional speed. He’s not flashy. He just simply gets the job done, and that’s all that matters.

Whalen and quarterback Andrew Luck were teammates and roommates in college at Stanford. It’s easy to tell that by their continuity on the field. They showed it last season. They showed at training camp at Anderson (Indiana) University and they showed it again when the two connected for a 5-yard touchdown against the Giants. Whalen is also a candidate to return punts.

It may come down to dependability (Whalen) vs. potential (Rogers) if the Colts go with only five receivers.

“I can’t think about it,” Rogers said. “Start to count numbers and you take yourself out the game.”

“It creeps in your mind," Whalen said. "Like human nature, I can’t completely ignore it. But I know focusing on it and dwelling on it isn’t going to help me. I try to focus on the things I can do. Like practicing hard every day and playing well in the games.”