Friday, October 24, 2014

Lots of Receiving Options for Andrew Luck

T.Y. Hilton
T.Y. Hilton is a problem. He is the deep threat for the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL's top-rated passing game.

Two weeks ago vs. the same Houston Texans team the Steelers defeated last Sunday, Hilton caught passes of 49, 40, 37 and 33 yards. Over Hilton's last three games, he has caught at least seven passes a game, averaging 140 yards receiving per game. He's trouble.

How the Steelers counter that threat will be largely dependent on cornerback Brice McCain getting help from the safeties -- we're looking at you, Mike Mitchell.

Hilton may be Indianapolis's most dangerous deep threat, but he certainly is not the Colts' only receiving option. With running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson combining for 43 catches this season, and with tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener combining for 38 catches, the Colts present a diversified passing attack.

And the thing about the tight ends, they're not used solely for short, move-the-sticks checkdown throws: Allen averages 14.5 yards per reception, which says he gets downfield (like Cleveland's Jordan Cameron, who gave the Steelers fits). Fleener averages a very respectable 12.6 yards per catch, in the mold of Carolina tight end Greg Olson.

We haven't even mentioned future Hall of Famer Reggie Wayne, who may be sidelined with an elbow injury. If he can't play, expect veteran Hakeem Nicks and rookie third-round draft pick Donte Moncrief, from Ole Miss, to play instead of Wayne, who has been the target of one of every five passes the Colts have thrown this season.

Donte Moncrief vs. Jacksonville
Moncrief is 6'2" and 221 pounds and runs a 4.4 40. He and the Steelers' rookie fourth-rounder, Martavis Bryant, were often mentioned in the same grouping of tall, fast but unpolished wide receivers coming out for last May's draft.

Moncrief appears to be a bit ahead of Bryant in his development so far. He has nine receptions this year, and this week offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton had this to say about Moncrief:  "He's ahead of schedule. He's a guy that we feel like at any given moment we can plug him in and he'll be ready to go out there and perform at the level that's expected."

Head coach Chuck Pagano said this about Moncrief: "From the minute he got here, we knew we had a long, athletic guy that could run, a guy that was mature beyond his years. We're getting him a little bit of burn, he is going to continue to get a little bit more action as we move forward. Obviously he's got playmaking ability and again, the game's not too big for him."

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