With Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, and Anthony Gonzalez coming into training camp healthy, the Colts now have a glut of weapons at their disposal at the receiver position. The only spot that is set at the moment is that Reggie Wayne will line up to the left of Peyton Manning in 2010.
Gonzalez, Garcon, and Collie have lined up in different combinations and formations at camp, but Indianapolis certainly favors consistency and efficiency over motion and match-ups at the receiver position. Will Garcon or Gonzalez line up at the right position?
The old adage that a player cannot lose his job to injury will be challenged in camp. Gonzalez played the right position when he was subbing in for Marvin Harrison and was lined up in that spot when he injured his knee in the first game of the 2009 season against the Jaguars.
But, he was also playing that position because of injuries to Harrison and was lined up there for the first snap of last season because Harrison was no longer with the team. Technically, the right side does not belong to him — in fact, Garçon may have the stronger claim to it based on early showings this season.
The issue is that production and history at the position is basically the same for the two players. In 2007, Gonzalez lined up in the spot traditionally occupied by Harrison and caught 37 passes for 576 yards and three touchdowns in nine starts. Last season, Garçon caught 47 passes for 765 yards and four touchdowns in 13 starts, which is about equivalent to Gonzalez's production on a per start basis.
Further clouding the issue is that Gonzalez had his most productive season — 57 receptions for 664 yards and four touchdowns — in 2008 when he lined up in the slot as the Y receiver. His numbers for 2008 are very similar to Collie's stats for 2009, as the second-year man from BYU caught 60 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
That would indicate that, with a year of experience under his belt, Collie would be able to produce at about the same level in 2010 lined up in the slot, with Garcon and Gonzalez fighting it out for the Z position. Garcon is the incumbent, but he does not have superior numbers to stand on. If Gonzalez wins the battle for the Z receiver spot, that would leave Garçon as the odd man out. It's comforting to know that the Colts would have a player of Garçon's caliber available should Gonzalez get hurt, but egos are also in play. So is timing.
Manning and Garçon struggled to find their timing early in the 2009 season and were often on different pages in terms of route adjustment and the overall flow of the offense. At about the mid point of the season, they found their timing and Garcon's productivity improved significantly. Gonzalez, though, spent a few days in Tennessee with Manning and Collie working on routes and timing this summer, so he is not unfamiliar with how Manning likes to operate — and Manning may also feel more comfortable with Gonzalez, a player he has bonded with since he was drafted in 2007.
Ultimately, Manning is the engine that drives this offense, so Indianapolis is going to go with the starting combination that he is most comfortable with. Since neither player has a distinct edge as far as comfort level, claim on the position, or production, the coming weeks will be critical for both Garcon and Gonzalez. Whoever establishes the highest comfort level with Manning and whoever is the most impressive in camp will win out. Regardless of who wins the starting spot, there is little doubt that both men will see plenty of field time and targets from Manning.
They can't go with four wide receivers, since that would leave Dallas Clark on the sidelines. If they go with four wide receivers and Clark, that strategy would be in direct conflict with the offseason mantra that stated the Colts were going to balance the offense and try to run more frequently. It would also waste the talents of two first-round picks in Joseph Addai and Donald Brown.
All things being equal, it may be best for the Colts if Gonzalez were to win the battle for the Z position and plunge Garcon to fourth on the depth chart. Garçon has flashed some ability in the return game and that is an area that has been a major struggling point for this Indianapolis team the past few seasons.
He is a young player, but Garçon has shown a great deal professionalism and maturity so far. If he is able to accept and embrace his role on the team as the fourth receiver and return specialist, the team as a whole will improve.
Talk about it in our Insider's Forum!
Follow ColtPower's updates on Twitter!
Gonzo, Garçon Battling for Receiver Spot
Colts Blitz Top Stories
10 worst NFL plays of all timeBoneheaded mistakes that these 10 NFL players will never live down.
Scout NFL Network08/22/2016
Three-and-out: NFL’s best matchups of Week 4From an early-morning Sunday game from London to Sunday and Monday night games, some of the best matchups will have the national spotlight in Week 4.
Scout NFL NetworkYesterday at 6:41 AM
Trevor Siemian's Orange ReturnThis Sunday, Trevor Siemian will throw his first touchdown pass in the state of Florida since high school, when he was known as Mr. Olympia.
Mile High HuddleWednesday at 12:16 PM
Daily Dr. Roto: Week 4 Waiver Wire WednesdayGet out the insurance card, get out the co-pay because the office is open my friends. It's Waiver Wire Wednesday so let's find out who to target in Week 4!
Scout FantasyWednesday at 10:43 AM