Colts take inexperienced WRs into playoffs

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1
5:00
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS – Nine.

That’s the number of receptions the Indianapolis Colts’ receivers have in their playoff career. Take starting receiver T.Y. Hilton out of the mix and that number goes down to one.

The Colts will head into Saturday’s wild-card playoff matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs with an inexperienced receiving group.

[+] EnlargeT.Y. Hilton
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsColts receiver T.Y. Hilton gained valuable experience during last season's trip to the playoffs.
Hilton and veteran receiver Reggie Wayne plan to talk to receivers Griff Whalen, Da’Rick Rogers and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who will be making their playoff debuts, about what to expect Saturday.

The coverage will be tighter. It’ll be harder to get off jams at the line of scrimmage. Defenses will be quicker.

“It’s very different from the regular season,” Hilton said. “It’s one and done, so guys are playing extra hard, going 1,000 miles faster than the regular season. All in all it’s about who is better that day.”

Hilton had eight catches for 66 yards in the Colts’ playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens last season. LaVon Brazill had one catch for 17 yards.

Two of the receivers – Whalen and Rogers – spent a significant amount of time on the practice squad this season. Whalen at least played in bowl games while at Stanford, so he has something he can sort of compare the playoffs to. Rogers doesn’t have that luxury.

“I personally prepare like it’s any other game, but with emphasis that it is the playoffs and you have to find that extra gear to get the game won,” Rogers said. “I’ve been on the practice squad most of the season. I’m more excited to get out there. So I’ll be revved up on adrenaline.”

Whalen, Rogers and Brazill have made significant strides since Wayne was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Week 7.

The three combined for 50 catches for 612 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season.

Whalen had an advantage because he was Luck’s teammate at Stanford and their offensive coordinator there, Pep Hamilton, is the Colts' offensive coordinator and he’s using the same passing plays he used while coaching them in college.

“The quarterback-receiver dynamic is all about trust and the quarterback has to trust that the receiver is going to get to the spot and or beat man coverage,” Hamilton said. “That was one of the things that Reggie, of course, afforded for the offense. Once Reggie went down we had to recallabrate, if you would, and just find a way to mix and match guys with certain concepts and certain situations. Try to put guys in position to do what they do best and we feel like we picked the right time to identify the niche of different guys.”

Mike Wells

ESPN Indianapolis Colts reporter

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