INDIANAPOLIS -- "Suspenseful" wouldn't be a word used to describe the competition for roster spots during Indianapolis Colts training camp.
The competition between Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger to be the starting quarterback ended -- for now, at least -- the moment Carson Wentz stepped back onto the practice field this week and didn’t look like a player who had foot surgery less than a month ago.
The best competition has been at the position that could end up being the deepest and potentially the most productive: wide receiver.
That having been said, there is no competition when it comes to who the top four receivers will be -- T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal are set, outside of maybe the order of the four. Who receivers five and six will be is where a lot of eyes will be on in Friday’s preseason finale at Detroit.
“It’s going to be hard,” Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said. “They’re making it hard on us because they’re all playing so well. We have a good group. We have a lot of weapons we’re ready to work with.”
The Colts' offensive and defensive lines and running back positions get the majority of the attention, but receiver is also a position that can't be overlooked. Fantasy managers might not be clamoring to select a Colts receiver simply because they have so much depth and coach Frank Reich is a big believer in spreading the ball around.
The veteran Hilton has been the team’s No. 1 receiver throughout his nine seasons with the Colts, which includes five 1,000-yard campaigns. But he could be passed up by second-year player Pittman.
Pascal has never been a flashy receiver, but he is consistent, and if he is the fourth option at the position, that means you have a talented group. And then there’s Campbell, who is the perfect receiver for Reich’s offense because he can be used a number of different ways -- outside, in the slot and in motion. The issue with Campbell is he has played in only nine games in his two seasons because of injuries.
“Obviously, we feel great about it, but we really haven’t put anything out there yet,” Reich said. “We see it, we feel good about it, but we’ve got to prove that come regular-season time. So no, we’re not looking for that credit just yet. We want to keep stacking together practices, feeling good about each other so we’ll be ready to go.”
And that’s talking about only the top four receivers.
The easy solution between Patmon, Dulin and Strachan would be to tuck Strachan away on the practice squad. But it’s not that simple. Another team would likely quickly pluck him off the practice squad because he has made that much of impact in his short time with the Colts.
@Mike_Playmaker I see you out there, every day ask yourself, "how can i make my QB & coordinators job easy" become that security blanket for them both & flourish 💯— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) August 17, 2021
Strachan, a seventh-round draft pick, was a late bloomer to football. He grew up in the Bahamas before moving to Virginia to go to high school. He went to Charleston, an NCAA Division II school in West Virginia, where he had more than 2,300 yards receiving in just 29 games played. Strachan brings a dimension to the Colts’ receiving room that’s lacking in that he’s 6-foot-5 and has the speed to go with his size.
“He’s just a big target, a big guy that is striving to be great,” Colts cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “He’s got great potential to be great with his size, speed and how he attacks the ball once it’s in the air. It’s just the little details and the things he needs to work on as a receiver that could make him one of the best in the league.”
Patmon was active for one game last season for the Colts, playing two snaps. Like Strachan, though, he’s had an impressive training camp to keep him in the mix.
“You can see the development, going into his second year, that it just takes some time for him and then all of a sudden it starts clicking,” Brady said. “The game is slowing down for him because he actually looks better in the games than sometimes he does in practice, which is excellent; we can live with that.”
Dulin has eight receptions for 70 yards in his career, but what could give him a better chance at the final receiver spot is he’s a key contributor on special teams.
Dulin, Patmon and Strachan will have an even bigger opportunity to impress the coaches against the Lions because none of the top receivers are expected to play.
“There’s a lot to consider there because we feel so strong about this room and about some of these young players,” Reich said. “Special teams factors into that, versatility factors into that, what role we see them playing, how they complement those first four guys, in what role they would play. Those are the main factors that we think about with those other guys.”