Is TJ Rushing's Job in Jeopardy?

Special teams are one of the areas the Colts have the most room to improve on in 2008. Perhaps with that in mind, the team has been taking a long look at a speedy return specialist that could be available on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. Brad Keller has the report on this exciting prospect inside!

Before he put on a pair of shorts in Indianapolis and worked out in front of scouts and general managers, NFL personnel knew that Eddie Royal was an exceptional athlete with explosive quickness.

But when the final tallies were in, Royal ended in the top 10 at his position in four categories, most importantly finishing sixth in both the 40-yard dash and the vertical jump.

Those numbers, coupled with the impressions that he left on scouts and members of the media, may get him drafted before the third round.  He's currently ranked 14th at his position and 91st overall by, so he could logically fall into the Colts' laps when they make their selection in the third.'s Ed Thompson described him as quiet, yet charismatic and, from interviews and conversations with Ed about Eddie Royal, he certainly sounds like a well-rounded young man with a good head on his shoulders.

Eddie Royal was a big-play threat at Virginia Tech
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Although he doesn't possess great size at 5 feet, 9 inches and 184 pounds, his score of 36 inches in the vertical jump proves that he can go up to get the ball and catch it as its highest point, which is actually more important than being tall for an NFL receiver.

He's a versatile player and he knows it, saying that his ability to do a number of different things for a team makes him more attractive: "Instead of having two or three guys on the roster to be a slot receiver, punt returner, and kick returner; they can use me for all three," he said.  "That's definitely helping me out a lot."

Additionally, he's being assisted by current receiver/return specialist Devin Hester and what a weapon Hester has been for the Bears: "Devin Hester is certainly helping me out a lot.  He's showing how important a dangerous return man can be."

Simply blistering the stopwatches at 4.39 seconds in the 40 at the Combine is not enough to convince scouts that he can be a dangerous and effective player at the NFL level, though.

Fortunately for Royal, he flashed his explosiveness and big-play ability throughout his career at Virginia Tech, at the Senior Bowl, and during position drills at the Combine.  He is a threat to take it the distance every time he touches that ball and would certainly give Colts opponents something else to prepare for.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer takes a great deal of pride in his special teams expertise and focuses a great deal of attention on the kicking game, so anyone that suited up and played for him would be an asset in that facet of the game.

And Indianapolis had its fare share of struggles both in the return and coverage game last season, so Royal would represent an instant upgrade there.

The issue is this: While his ability to contribute on returns and add another dangerous element to an already potent Colts attack is readily apparent, it's doubtful that Royal will have the same pronounced impact on the passing game.

It's true that he's about the same weight as Anthony Gonzalez and Marvin Harrison, and that, until this season, Harrison didn't have any issues going over the middle or missing time with injuries. But Harrison is not your average player.

A better comparison, particularly since Royal will most likely line up in the slot, would be Brandon Stokley.  Stokley is two inches taller and ten pounds heavier than Royal and, even with the added size, missed 22 games in his time with Indianapolis. 

Royal does not have a lengthy injury history, but if he proves to be valuable in the return game and, with an established track record of Colts slot receivers and tight ends getting their fair share of contact in the middle of the field, he may end up being too valuable as a specialist to use as a receiver.

Therefore, he would act as a fourth or fifth receiver and may not be pressed into action unless Reggie Wayne, Gonzalez, or Harrison gets injured.  In that situation, he would be loitering in his roster spot.

Of course, the Colts are very familiar with Hester, how dangerous he can be, and how much one big return can change a game (even though the Colts won that one).

If they feel as though Royal is the next Devin Hester, then they should pick him up — even in the second round if they suspect he will be gone by the third round. 

But, with more pressing needs along the defensive and offensive lines, at tight end, and running back, it would seem rash to take a risk on a player in the second or third round that would only contribute on special teams and take a roster spot away from a potentially valuable backup.  He could be the next Devin Hester, but he could also be the next Willie Reid

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