Colts at New York Jets
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium
TV: WANE, Ch. 15
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INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne's return to Indianapolis was a godsend for the Colts. No wonder he has some disciples.
Dwayne Allen looks nothing like Wayne. Allen is a 6-foot-3, 255-pound tight end. He could bench-press Wayne.
T.Y. Hilton looks nothing like Wayne, either. Hilton is 5-9, allegedly 183 pounds. He could fit in Wayne's lunch box, or at least his locker.
Yet the big man and the little guy both consider Wayne the gold standard when it comes to the pure art of catching a football. Given Wayne's 13-catch, 212-yard, game-winning show against the Green Bay Packers last week, it's no wonder he has followers. Of course, those followers came long before the latest great Wayne game.
“I don't try to do what Reggie does in any way,” Allen said. “(But) on game day and definitely in practice, any tips I can get from him, I steal from him. I look at him as far as his catching routine in practice. Then he goes out and plays lights out, anything that's coming his way, he's coming down with it.”
Wayne and the Colts (2-2) will play at the New York Jets at 1 p.m. Sunday in MetLife Stadium.
There's little question that Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has leaned heavily on Wayne. Wayne has a team-high 36 catches for 506 yards and two touchdowns.
As Luck goes into New York, however, he'll face a Jets defense intent on trying to take away, or somewhat limit, Wayne's opportunities. That means one of two things: Either Luck will keep going to Wayne anyway, perhaps forcing things and risking interceptions, or he'll need to mix things up even more with Allen, Hilton, Donnie Avery and Coby Fleener.
Given Luck's intelligence, I'd lean toward him looking for alternatives if and when Wayne is being smothered.
Allen and Hilton would be the next-best choices.
Allen has shown fairly soft hands for a tight end. He has 10 catches for 76 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He's surprisingly nimble for a man of his size, yet has the type of power to fight through tacklers and come up with plays in traffic.
Allen and Fleener (13 catches, 139 yards) were expected to provide the type of quality tight end receiving production that seems to be increasing.
“Progressively, our roles have grown bigger and bigger and I think that's the way they wanted it to be,” Allen said. “Coming into this offense, the tight end has a lot of jobs. If coach (Bruce) Arians put everything on us in the beginning, I don't think we have progressed as far.”
Hilton, meanwhile, looks to be on his way to push Avery as the No.2 wide receiver. Avery is more experienced and is second (albeit distantly) to Wayne with 17 catches for 198 yards. Hilton has eight catches for 165 yards (a team-best 20.6 yards per reception).
Hilton was inactive for the first game and played little against Minnesota, but caught four passes for 113 yards against Jacksonville to become the NFL's first rookie receiver this season to break 100 yards. He caught three passes for 37 yards against the Packers, including a big catch late in the game.
The Colts' increased use of the no-huddle suits Hilton well. He says he's more comfortable with the no-huddle than a more deliberate approach.
“A lot of things are coming into play (on offense),” Hilton said. “Watching film is helping a lot, especially with a great guy like Reggie Wayne, who helps us out. Play-calling is becoming much easier, the playbook's becoming much smaller. The game is slowing down for me and the rest of the team.
“The more you study, the more the game slows down,” Hilton said.
The more Colts receivers of all shapes and sizes study Wayne, the more likely they'll be to see Luck's passes coming their way.