COMMENTARY | With news coming earlier this week that Indianapolis Colts wide receiver LaVon Brazill would be suspended for the first four games of the regular season due to a substance abuse violation, the competition for the fourth position in the wide receiver depth chart has opened up even more.
Brazill had a solid rookie season after being picked in the sixth round in 2012, catching 11 passes for 186 yards and a score that set up the game winning touchdown last year in Detroit. He also offered value as a special teams player, where he played as a backup kick and punt returner last season.
With Pep Hamilton in as the new offensive coordinator in Indianapolis, the Colts will likely be running an offense using many West Coast schemes. These changes could include adding formations with three tight ends and others with two fullbacks. With so many players needed at other positions, the Colts are only likely to hold onto five receivers when they make their final cuts.
Per NFL rules, Brazill will not count towards the 53 man roster total during his suspension, allowing the Colts to get a good look at other receivers on the roster before making a decision about Brazill.
One intriguing option to replace Brazill is former Stanford wide receiver Griff Whalen. Whalen already has an established repertoire with Hamilton and starting quarterback Andrew Luck. Whalen was Luck's leading wide receiver during Luck's final year at Stanford, beating out tight end Coby Fleener who is also on the Colts roster.
Whalen managed to impress during last year's preseason before suffering a broken foot that placed him on injured reserve. During the two games he played, Whalen managed 12 catches on 14 targets for 125 yards and a score. Whalen clearly has chemistry with Andrew Luck that the other wide receivers fighting for a roster spot are only hoping to develop.
Nathan Palmer is another possible replacement for Brazill's spot on the depth chart for the beginning of the season. Palmer saw limited playing time a year ago as an undrafted rookie. He ran a 4.34 40 while preparing for the NFL draft, which is the same time recorded by slot receiver T.Y. Hilton. Between Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey, the Colts seem to have plenty of speed receivers, making Palmer expendable.
Another option is Jabin Sambrano. Sambrano was another undrafted free agent who the Colts picked up last year. Sambrano impressed during OTAs and looked like he would be battling for a roster spot before he suffered a season ending injury in August. Sambrano has an advantage over the other receivers due to the fact that he saw success as a returner during his last year of college at Montana in 2011. During his senior season, Sambrano returned both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown.
Last but not least is Jeremy Kelley, a CFL and AFL project player who has had limited success in his career despite being 6'6". After gaining just 15 yards in his only season in the CFL, Kelley managed 7 touchdowns in 8 games for the Utah Blaze last year. His size makes him a legitimate red zone threat if the coaches in Indianapolis can help him to take full advantage of his body size.
LaVon Brazill already knew that he would have quite a bit of competition for that fourth wide receiver spot, but his suspension will give somebody else four games to prove why they deserve a roster spot. If that player manages to make the most of his opportunities, Brazill might be long forgotten when his suspension ends.
Daniel Biehl lives in Indianapolis and has been a fan of the Colts since Jim Harbaugh was the starting quarterback. He has written for several websites, including various tech blogs.
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