There is no doubt the Indianapolis Colts will miss the presence of future Hall of Famer Reggie Wayne. However, the team proved on Sunday night, against the previously unbeaten Denver Broncos, that it has the players to step up in his absence.
Per ESPN.com, Wayne suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in the victory over Denver. He's out for the remainder of the season. Wayne went down with 7:13 remaining in the game, but the Colts managed to hold on for the win in the final quarter.
Wayne's career and season accomplishments are noteworthy. He has 1,006 receptions and 13,566 receiving yards in his 13-year career. He hadn't missed a game since his rookie season. Faced with life without Wayne, the Colts will lean on second-year player T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and tight end Coby Fleener to pick up the slack.
Hilton is an emerging star who could very well use this opportunity to take his career to the next level.
He's a speedster with big-play ability. So far this season, he has 27 receptions for 412 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers seem destined to rise as quarterback Andrew Luck should be looking his way a bit more.
Fleener already has great chemistry with Luck. They played at Stanford together and their first two seasons in the NFL in Indy. Fleener has 22 catches and three scores this season.
Perhaps the player who stands to see the biggest bump up in attention is Heyward-Bey. He came to the Colts this season after spending his first four years with the Oakland Raiders. DHB has the size, speed and overall athleticism to be a major force.
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He had four catches and a score against Denver. Because of his body type and dexterity, he is the one receiver who can run the routes Wayne did. Perhaps DHB can't run them as precisely, but nonetheless, there is no reason to alter the playbook.
From a pure speed standpoint, he even offers an element Wayne couldn't at the age of 34.
Luck has proven he has the ability to spread the ball around and be effective. Against the Broncos, seven different receivers caught a pass from him. Expect this to continue as the offense adjusts to the loss of Wayne behind the leadership of their young signal caller.
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