By Tom James Tribune-Star correspondent
---- — INDIANAPOLIS - When the Indianapolis Colts signed rookie wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers to the active roster Monday after a stint on the practice squad, it was just another indication that team officials aren’t completely happy with the way the Colts’ receiving corps has played over the last two weeks.
Indianapolis has posted a 1-1 record since losing veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the Denver game on Oct. 20, beating AFC South rival Houston at Reliant Stadium and losing last week at home to St. Louis 38-8.
While second-year wide receiver T.Y. Hilton appears to be raising the level of his game, 14 receptions for 251 yards and three touchdowns, the rest of the group -- Darius Heyward-Bey, LaVon Brazill, and Griff Whalen -- haven’t been quite as productive.
Heyward-Bey, a speedster known for his inconsistent play and questionable hands while playing for Oakland the last four seasons, has four catches for 41 yards. Brazill, meanwhile, has had two receptions for 20 yards. Whalen has six catches for 68 yards.
By including Rogers to the mix, the Colts coaching staff are hoping to add some much needed big-play skills.
An athletically-gifted player who earned All-Southeastern Conference honors at the University of Tennessee, off-field issues forced the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Rogers to wrap up his collegiate career at Tennessee Tech last year.
Those same off-field issues pushed Rogers out of the 2013 National Football League draft and forced him to sign a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills. Indianapolis signed him after he was released by the Bills.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is hopeful that Rogers will be able to put his past problems behind him.
“Since we brought him in here and gave him the opportunity that we talked about a long time ago, he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do. Now we’re going to give him an opportunity because he’s earned that. He’s big, he’s fast and he’s got excellent ball skills. He’s just another guy that we can add to the mix,” Pagano said this week.
“We feel like, we’ll see how things go. We haven’t put up who is going to be up, who is going to be down [active for the game], those type of things. But he’s certainly a guy that if he gets out there, he’s got playmaking ability. He can help us. Again, every decision we make is based on what’s best for our team and what gives us the best chance to win. So he’s done a great job to this point.”
If he does get a chance to play, is Rogers ready to be on the big stage?
“The guy has, like I said, done everything we’ve asked him to do to this point. He’s been coming in every morning an hour before. He spends extra time with [Colts receivers] Coach Williams and Charlie has done a great job with him. Stays after. He’s steadily made progress,” the Indianapolis head coach said.
“He’s a bright kid, picks things up. If he gets out there, is it going to be perfect? No. Never is. Never is for anybody. 13-year vets make mistakes. But he’s certainly doing everything within his power to give himself a chance if he gets the opportunity to go out there and make something happen.”
What does Rogers think?
“[Being released by Buffalo] was just motivation. Me as a player, I know my talents and I know my abilities. I just know I had to fix a few things personally and I’m in the direction of fixing those things. This [Colts] organization has helped,” he said.
“I have a lot of confidence in my talents and abilities and it’s simple. I just got to go out and do the things the coaches taught me and the things that I’ve learned and everything will work itself out.”
As for the rest of the Colts receivers, second-year tight end Coby Fleener may have said it best.
“You can’t replace a guy like Reggie, so it will definitely be a process [making the adjustment]. I think each week I would expect guys to be more comfortable and have a better understanding of the offense,” Fleener voiced.
“But it’s one of those things where you can’t ask guys to just pull out Reggie Wayne and plug in another guy and expect it to be exactly the same.”
Second-year quarterback Andrew Luck, who had quickly developed a bond with Wayne, is also having to get used to the fact that the Pro Bowl receiver won’t be back until next season.
“There is a bit of an adjustment but there’s no excuse for not doing things or not getting better and continuing to improve. Reggie was such a huge part of the offense, still is a huge part of the offense. His leadership, that role he brings. Hopefully, we don’t miss a beat, but there is a bit of an adjustment,” Luck said.
“It goes back to all the practice, games and off season reps that I got to throw to Reggie. That’s not there anymore, I guess. The guys have done a great job with the extra work and making sure they’re in the right spot at the right time. I don’t think we’ll miss a beat.”