INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Colts receiver Phillip Dorsett may be about to get his first big opportunity in the NFL.
The 2015 first-round draft pick will be asked to play a much bigger role over the next month — and perhaps longer — after learning No. 2 receiver Donte Moncrief will miss four to six weeks with a fractured left shoulder blade.
Moncrief was injured in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss at Denver and did not return, another big blow for a team already hit hard by injuries.
“It’s a skill set that we’ll miss,” coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday after making the announcement. “Thank God we’ve got 13 (T.Y. Hilton) and thank God we’ve got 15 (Dorsett).”
Fortunately for the Colts (0-2) they have Hilton, who has been to the past two Pro Bowls, and Dorsett, who was drafted early because of his game-breaking speed.
After that, Indy has a group of unproven youngsters.
Quan Bray and Chester Rogers, the only other receivers the Colts kept to start the season — had combined for just one NFL reception. So on Wednesday, they signed Devin Street off the New England Patriots’ practice squad.
Street has seven catches, all with the Dallas Cowboys from 2014-15, and he’ll have four days to learn the offense and get in sync with Andrew Luck before Sunday’s game against San Diego.
The Colts are trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2011, when Peyton Manning missed the entire season with a neck injury, and only their second 0-3 start since 1999, Manning’s second season in the league.
Hilton became one of Luck’s favorite options after Reggie Wayne was not re-signed following the 2014 season and knows he’ll need to do even more with Moncrief out.
“It’s hard, but I told my brother, we’ve got your back,” Hilton said. “The team will be looking to me and Phil more now.”
But now Dorsett will be thrust into a higher-profile job.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Miami product struggled to make a difference early last season. He fell behind Hilton, Andre Johnson and Moncrief on the depth chart, and just when it appeared Dorsett might be ready to break out, he broke his lower left leg.
He caught only four more passes after returning in December.
The Colts released Johnson in March, moving Dorsett into the No. 3 spot and now with Moncrief down, he’ll move into the No. 2 spot. He promises to be ready.
“I’m light years better than I was last year,” Dorsett said, referring to an 18-catch rookie season. “It’s different ways I watch film now, that helps me slow stuff down, see how you adjust when the ball is in the air, that sort of thing.”
The difference has been noticeable on the field.
He already has five catches for 124 yards and his average of 24.8 yards is much closer to what general manager Ryan Grigson envisioned when he took Dorsett at No. 29 overall.
Teammates also have seen a change.
“He’s a young kid, who is making big strides from last year,” Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis said. “And he’s more confident.”
What the Colts need most, though, is productivity.
Moncrief emerged last season as a solid No. 2 option and started this season with seven catches for 73 yards and one touchdown in less than five quarters.
Now, it’s up to Dorsett to prove he can live up to the hype.
The Colts already believe in him.
“He’s making plays down the field and he’s not thinking,” Pagano said. “He’s speeding up and you’re starting to see and feel his presence out there.”
- Quarterback Andrew Luck was not on the field for the early portion of practice Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if the absence was part of the Colts’ plan to “manage” him better throughout the week. Pagano did not talk about Luck when listing the injuries Monday or Wednesday. Luck is expected to take questions following practice.
- Davis did limited work Wednesday, the first time he’s been on the practice field since sustaining an ankle injury in mid-August.
- Safety T.J. Green (sprained right knee) also did limited work at practice while starting cornerback Patrick Robinson went through non-contact drills after being cleared from the concussion protocol. Safety Clayton Geathers (sore foot) did not practice for precautionary reasons, Pagano said.