It’s always a good problem to have when a team can’t figure out what to do at a position because they have so much depth.
However, that is the situation that the Indianapolis Colts find themselves in.
As injuries decimated the Colts receiving core last season, the team looked for capable fillers within the organization. Of those who were given a opportunity to succeed in wake of Reggie Wayne’s injury and Darrius Heyward-Bey’s inability to play well, LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen and Da’Rick Rogers stood out for the team. All three contributed in their own way to the team, helping Indy make the playoffs and win the first playoff game of the Ryan Grigson-era.
Now that Wayne is back and fellow receivers Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief were brought onto the team, a gigantic competition is being waged for the fifth receiver spot.
The front-runner for the spot, LaVon Brazill, made the contest a tad easier after violating the league’s substance abuse policy in July. That leaves Whalen and Rogers to duke it out for the spot, with neither giving an inch on the other.
While the two may be even on their chances to make the team, their style of play is monumentally different. Whalen is a pure possession receiver who gets open using his moves rather than his speed. He has big hands to catch the ball with and rarely drops throws in his direction, which made him a solid third-down receiver for Andrew Luck and the Colts last season.
What Da’Rick Rogers lacks for in mechanics, he makes up for in speed and athletic ability. He averaged 13.7 yards per reception, good for best on the team. He loved making big plays and could always be found open somewhere down-field, making separation with his feet. However, he had a couple routine drops on easy routes and didn’t show the ability to be a full-time wideout for the team.
And now the Colts have a decision to make. Should they keep Rogers or Whalen?
To me, the answer is simple: Keep Both, for now.
Typically, teams tend to not keep six receivers on the roster, but Indianapolis is certainly not the typical passing offense. There are many guys in the offense that can make plays, so it never hurts to have depth if something happens. It’s also important to keep in mind that Reggie Wayne is coming off an injury that receivers typically do not recover easily from. If he does something to it again or tweaks something else on the old body, a sixth receiver to step in can make all the difference.
Also, let’s not forget about Robert Mathis’ suspension for four games. In order to make room for him on the roster after Week 4, someone will have to be cut from the active squad. Naturally, you’d think the team would keep an outside linebacker at the spot until Mathis is back, but the Colts are stacked at the position behind Mathis. Instead of giving a defensive man who will inevitably be cut after a couple of games, why not give Rogers and Whalen a 4-week competition? That way, their strengths can be assessed in real-time games instead of practice and preseason. Once Mathis is back, the Colts could make a decision on which receiver to cut, or, if an injury has come up, whether keeping both is a good idea.
If the Colts do not decide to keep both receivers, I have to lean towards the side of Whalen for now. While Rogers has had an extremely solid camp and is certainly the fan-favorite, Whalen possesses more of what the Colts want. If Wayne does go down or plays underwhelmingly (which very well could happen), Whalen makes more sense to replace him, as he’s a possession receiver similar to Wayne. His chemistry with Luck at Stanford and his punt-returning abilities also work for him as well.
If this situation does play through, Rogers won’t be on waivers for long. His playoff performances did not go unnoticed by the rest of the league, and a wide receiver-needy team will likely pick him up. If the Colts decide the other way, Whalen would also be picked up by any team in need of a receiver off the waivers.
Indianapolis is known as one of the best young teams in football. Rogers and Whalen define that mantra of young players and could strengthen the youth movement in Indy if they both stay put on the roster.
Some wide receiver drama is sure to unfold in the next few weeks; stay tuned.