It's been three games now without Reggie Wayne, and these were definitely the three most inconsistent games of the season.
In all three games, the Colts were outscored 66-9 in the first half of those games. With the exception of one game, the Colts scored at least 9 points in the previous seven games.
Another interesting stat, those previous seven opponents combined for 77 points (compared to the 66 by those three).
That last stat shows that even the whole team is out of sync, and that starts with unfinished drives on offense; a lot of 3 and outs.
They also dropped out of the top 10 of 3 and out percentage with Wayne out.
That's from a statistical point. When you look on tape, there's just a huge hole. T.Y. Hilton is an outstanding receiver and receives a lot of great matchups. He's done a great job replacing Reggie Wayne, but behind him there is nobody. THERE IS NO PRODUCTION.
Darrius Heyward-Bey has been absolutely horrible and has done nothing to fill the void at the No. 2 receiver spot. Brazill and Whalen (who was released earlier this week) didn't do anything either. The only other player who has had an impact in the passing game was Coby Fleener.
He had a big game against the Titans, but that's about it from him, but it seems that big things are ahead for Fleener. With Reggie Wayne, you get that great receiver on third down and that guy you know that 95 percent of the time will make the catch. You have that security blanket, and even though Hilton has made some big plays, he’s not a security blanket.
So, you have Reggie Wayne as the security blanket, T.Y. Hilton as the big-play No. 2 guy, Fleener and Heyward-Bey making up the other chunk of production (that was the plan at least for DHB), and you had an ideal receiving corps. But without Wayne and no production from Heyward-Bey, you’re relying on two guys, one of which is inconsistent, and the other isn’t proven enough yet as a possession receiver or a security blanket.
The problem now, and it's something that will be more evident as the next couple of weeks go on is that if Hilton is shut down, the Colts will have to have someone else step up or nothing will happen in the passing game. Hilton killed it against the Texans and the Rams (even though the Rams killed them), and when he was shut down by Alterraun Verner of the Titans, Fleener stepped up and had a huge game.
If you look at the matchup this week against the Cardinals, it is a matchup nightmare for the Colts. Hilton will be going up against Patrick Peterson about 90 percent of the time, and Peterson is turning into (or already is) an elite cornerback that has shut down some great receivers this year.
So, if they shut down Hilton, that means that Fleener will have to step it up, but he will be going up against either of their inside linebackers: Karlos Dansby or Daryl Washington. Both are nightmares. Washington has the speed to keep up with any tight end and many receivers in football. Dansby ranks in the top 5 for pass deflections with an incredible 13 this year. Both those guys are very capable of shutting down Fleener. So, you look at the matchups and they're not good for the receiving corps.
With Reggie Wayne, you get that extra guy, and it gives Hilton a good matchup against a guy like Antoine Cason or Jerraud Powers. Now, Lavon Brazill or Darrius Heyward-Bey will be going up against those guys, and I just don't think those guys can win that matchup.
My point in all of that is that the Colts will have some nightmare matchups in a few matches before the end of the year, and if they shut down T.Y. Hilton, they'll be hard pressed to find another guy to step up. The Chiefs are tough this week, the Titans the week after that, the Bengals after that, and the Chiefs in Week 16. Those are all hard matchups in terms of the Colts' receiving corps vs. their defensive back unit. The Colts will need to find the right matchups and have other guys step up in order for the passing game to excel.
Back to Reggie Wayne. This is the type of impact he has. It really wasn't a joke last year when they mentioned his name in the MVP race. This guy has such a huge impact in the Colts' passing game, it's not even funny. The Colts are clearly not the same on offense, and have been struggling to find consistency amongst the receivers and drops continue to be a big problem among all of the receivers.
Maybe it means that the Colts will have to find some potential long-term receivers this offseason to make the transition easier, because right now, the depth at receiver is ridiculously thin behind T.Y. Hilton and as mentioned earlier, if T.Y. is stopped, they'll need another guy to step up, and with the exception of one game from Fleener, none of these players have had any big games.
To recap, the loss of Reggie Wayne has been huge on the Colts and it left a void in the passing game. T.Y. Hilton has been forced to move up and although he has performed, if shut down, the Colts will require another player to step it up big time, and with the exception of one game from one player, none of these guys have had big games yet. The Colts' passing game is in trouble going forward.