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Colts' rookie class continues to shine

Pro Football Weekly
Colts' rookie class continues to shine
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Colts' rookie class continues to shine

The Colts rank third in the NFL in total offense heading into Week 14, yet to hear our sources tell it, they have yet to really hit their stride.

As is often the case with young squads, it can be tough to predict what to expect on a week-to-week basis.

Indianapolis’ thrilling Week 13 comeback victory over the Lions was a classic example of the uneven play on offense. Rookie QB Andrew Luck was sluggish much of the afternoon, completing less than 45 percent of his throws (24-of-54) and tossing three picks, but he also threw four TDs, including the game winner to Donnie Avery as time expired.

Luck and his pass catchers accounted for 391 yards in the win, with Luck again showing his masterful control of the two-minute offense with his team down 12 and less than four minutes remaining, but interim head coach Bruce Arians said it was perhaps the receiving group’s worst game of the season.

Look out when this unit fully meshes.

Of course, Luck is the straw that stirs the Colts’ drink on offense. But it must be noted that spending the top pick on him was the easy part for GM Ryan Grigson; the buttons he pushed with the rest of his rookie class have been much more impressive.

Second-rounder Coby Fleener had his first TD catch against the Lions, a gorgeous 26-yard back shoulder reception that displayed Fleener’s great size and body control. That it didn’t come until Week 13 might qualify as a surprise, but Fleener missed four games with a shoulder injury that we hear might have been a blessing in disguise.

According to one source, Fleener was pressing a bit prior to his injury, but now he is thinking less and just playing his game.

Third-round rookie TE Dwayne Allen is the more complete package at the moment — Fleener’s blocking was described by the source as “less than serviceable” — and Allen’s perfectly executed 40-yard catch-and-run on a TE screen against the Lions should put to bed any remaining concerns about his speed.

Daily team observers have been pleasantly surprised by the way fifth-round RB Vick Ballard has responded to his significant role. The team's leading rusher has started eight games, showing a knack for delivering big plays in crunch time and holding his own as a blocker and receiver. Ballard isn't a game-breaker, but he clearly has the trust of the coaching staff, more so than former first-rounder Donald Brown.

As for Indianapolis’ rookie WR tandem, the production and consistent progress has been exceptional, we hear.

The biggest knock on T.Y. Hilton, whom Grigson traded up to nab in the third round, was his diminutive makeup potentially leading to regular bumps and bruises. Coming off his fourth 100-yard receiving game, Hilton has yet to miss any action because of injuries, and he showed his toughness by returning in Week 12 and catching a TD after taking a shot to the head on a punt return and temporarily heading to the locker room.

Sixth-rounder LaVon Brazill’s numbers aren’t as gaudy as Hilton’s, but we hear he has been as advertised — and then some. Some folks wondered how quickly Brazill would grasp an NFL offense, but we hear he has rarely resembled a rookie, and he continues to come up with very timely plays, both as a receiver and on special teams.

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