Colts' T.Y. Hilton: 'I'm Doing Everything I Can'
Phillip B. Wilson
INDIANAPOLIS — Whether T.Y. Hilton can return to the Indianapolis Colts lineup on Sunday or for any of the remaining four games is quite uncertain.
The four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver doesn’t know. A calf strain that he re-aggravated last week in practice cost him a fourth missed start. The Colts (6-6) have lost four of five during this stretch and, since Hilton was drafted in 2012, are 1-8 without him. He didn’t practice on Wednesday.
“I’m doing everything I can to get back out there,” Hilton said of his daily training room rehabilitation routine. “If I can, if I can. If I can’t, then I’m going to have to shut it down. But I’m doing everything I can.”
His loss is magnified on a team decimated by injuries to pass catchers. The Colts had another on Sunday as wide receiver Chester Rogers suffered a season-ending knee injury. He joins wide receiver Devin Funchess and tight end Eric Ebron on injured reserve. Rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell is still on the mend from surgery for a fractured hand.
“Terrible, man. Just terrible,” Hilton said of how he feels watching his team.
He realizes defenses are playing the Colts different without him. A healthy Hilton means defending a speedy deep threat as well as a crafty route runner who can get open with precision to move the chains on shorter routes, too. Despite his extended absence, he’s still second on the team with 35 receptions for 378 yards and has a team-high five TDs.
“It’s very difficult because I know I can help this team,” he said. “Me not being out there, teams are starting to play different ways. They’re starting to blitz more, they’re starting to play a lot of man coverage. We’ve just got to win our one-on-one matchups and that will loosen up the run game.”
The Colts’ playoff chances have taken a nose dive — they probably need to win each of the last four games to have a chance. That includes a Monday night road trip to New Orleans (10-2), which is tied for the NFC’s best record.
In the wake of Rogers’ departure, wide receiver Chad Williams has been promoted from the practice squad and signed wide receiver Malik Henry to the practice squad. They also worked out free-agent wide receiver Dontrelle Inman, who caught 28 passes for 304 yards and three TDs in nine games with the Colts last year, but did not sign him.
None of the Colts’ pass catchers was drafted, which shows just how depleted the group has become. Wide receiver Zach Pascal has proven to be a reliable option with a pair of 100-yard games, including seven catches for 109 yards in Sunday’s 31-17 home loss to Tennessee. Tight end Jack Doyle, a 2017 Pro Bowl standout with a team-high 36 receptions, caught six passes for 73 yards and one TD on Sunday.
But beyond them, it’s wide receiver Marcus Johnson, wide receiver Ashton Dulin, tight ends Mo Alie-Cox, Ross Travis and Matt Lengel to go with the recently added Williams. Johnson, a third-year pro, has nine catches for 102 yards and one score.
Head coach Frank Reich admitted the team had to juggle personnel when Rogers exited on Sunday. That included changing the cards to reflect who could be plugged in where on certain plays.
Reich reiterated on Wednesday that injuries never enter his mind as an excuse. If a player is out there, the expectation to perform doesn’t change.
That said, quarterback Jacoby Brissett hasn’t been the same without Hilton. The Colts have led in the fourth quarter of four of those last five games. An inability to finish with games on the line can be linked to not having his go-to guy.
Pressing to make a play against the Titans, Brissett overthrew a pair of fourth-quarter passes that were intercepted. The Colts are 24th in passing at 204.8 yards per game and 17th in scoring at 21.8 points per game.
At times, they’ve been able to rely on a solid rushing game, which ranks fourth at 139 yards per game. But the Titans stuffed the defensive box and limited the Colts to just 82 yards on 24 carries.
Leading rusher Marlon Mack, who has missed the past two games with a fractured hand, returned to practice on Wednesday. His status is uncertain for Sunday. Mack was on pace for the best season of his three-year career with 862 yards on 192 carries with four TDs before getting hurt.