August 21, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett have a clear mission this season: Become consistent, quality receivers.

The Colts' playoff hopes may depend on it.

''We've got to step up and make plays,'' Moncrief said. ''We have to help out T.Y. (Hilton).''

Moncrief is perfectly positioned to make the jump.

After being taken in the third-round of the 2014 draft, the 6-foot-2, 222-pounder from Mississippi started flashing play-making ability late in his rookie season. The expectations increased last season when he entered training camp as the No. 3 receiver and again when he was pressed into more action because of Andre Johnson's struggles.

Moncrief wound up doubling his rookie totals, finishing with 64 receptions and six touchdowns despite playing with a bad toe. Indy released Johnson in March and essentially handed the starting job opposite Hilton, a two-time Pro Bowler, to Moncrief, who was recovering from toe surgery.

''I got into the playbook and learned every position because you never know where you're going to be lining up on the field,'' the 23-year-old Moncrief said. ''I know the game better now.''

Dorsett faces a different kind of challenge. The Colts gambled by using last year's first-round pick on the 5-foot-10, 185-pound speedster from Miami, expecting Dorsett to stretch the field and create a spark in the return game.

Instead, Dorsett spent the first part of 2015 getting acclimated to the NFL and broke his lower left leg just when it appeared he might break through. The injury cost him five games and eliminated his chance of making the kind of impact Indy projected.

He's healthy now and with a full offseason to work with quarterback Andrew Luck and the rest of his teammates, Dorsett intends to improve on the 18 catches, 225 yards and one TD he had last season.

''I've focused a lot on the strength, endurance and going out and being able to run full speed for the whole game,'' Dorsett said. ''I did a lot of route running.''

Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski noted that Dorsett seemed more precise running pass patterns when he arrived at training camp last month. And Hilton said that Indy's new No. 3 receiver is catching better and blocking more effectively, too - traits Indy desperately needs given the lack of proven talent behind Dorsett.

The eight other receivers on Indy's current roster have zero catches in the NFL. And though one of them, Chester Rogers, came up with the winning score last weekend at Buffalo, the other eight finished with six combined catches. It's an area the team is looking to shore up quickly.

Indy hosts Baltimore on Saturday with Luck expected to make his first start in more than nine months.

''We've got some young guys that we want to focus on a little bit, and there are some guys out there that we're looking at as well,'' coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday after veteran Josh Boyce was released.

While Pagano didn't cite any specific receivers, the NFL landscape is littered with experienced veterans such as Marques Colston, Brian Hartline and Roddy White. Indy has tried that route before with results ranging from modest success to outright failure.

So the Colts' best hope appears to be the emergence of two young, promising receivers who insist they are ready to get the job done.

''We've got to basically help everybody,'' Dorsett said. ''We've got to help in the run game, we've got to help Andrew (Luck), we've got to play fast and we've got to play physical and that's what we're going to do.''

Notes: Pagano said five players would not play Saturday night: cornerbacks Jalil Brown (ankle) and Darius Butler (hamstring), receiver Marcus Leak (quad), linebacker Sio Moore (hamstring) and guard Hugh Thornton (ankle). ... Pagano said most of the starting offense should play the first quarter against the Ravens and possibly into the second. ... Defensive linemen Henry Anderson could come off the physically unable to perform list soon. Pagano said Anderson is ''really close'' to being cleared for practice. He has not practiced with the team since tearing the ACL in his right knee in November.



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