Colts’ Phillip Dorsett focused on competing as he heads into third year
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – If the clock is ticking on Phillip Dorsett, he’s paying it no mind.
The Indianapolis Colts’ 2015 first-round draft pick – the 29th overall selection – is heading into his third season and, statistically-speaking, so many are waiting for him to fulfill first-round expectations.
His first two seasons have been a mix of occasional bursts of big-play potential with stretches of ineffectiveness. Dorsett generated eight receptions of at least 20 yards last season, including four of the Colts’ top six. He’s averaging 14.8 yards on 51 career catches. His touchdowns have covered 64, 50 and 35 yards.
But he’s had two catches or fewer in 19 of 26 career games, one or none 11 times.
So, is the pressure mounting in year 3?
“Every year is a big year for me,’’ Dorsett said Tuesday. “That’s how I look at it. I’m not just trying to pick out one particular year. Even when I first came in, I thought it was going to be a big year.
“I’m trying not to worry about where I got drafted . . . just put your head down and grind, compete.’’
There figures to be ample competition in the receivers’ room.
T.Y. Hilton returns after securing his third Pro Bowl nod and leading the NFL with a personal-best 1,448 yards. Donte Moncrief is heading into a contract year and a big season will translate into a big contract, either from the Colts or another team. Chester Rogers emerged as a viable threat as an undrafted rookie last season and Kamar Aiken was added through veteran free agency.
“I love competition,’’ Dorsett said. “If you’re not a competitor, you’re not cut out for football. It’s competition everywhere, every day.
“But I love it. I chose to do this profession. I want to play until the wheels fall off.’’
Dorsett has enjoyed working with new position coach Sanjay Lal, who spent the last two seasons in a similar role with Buffalo. Bills’ standout wide receiver Sammy Watkins was supportive of Lal before he relocated to Indy.
“That’s one guy that I don’t want to leave,’’ Watkins said. “Probably if he leaves, then I don’t know how my mindset will be, honestly. That’s a guy that kind of groomed me into running routes and doing everything the right way – mental, physical – and if he leaves, that’ll hurt.’’
Dorsett echoed Watkins’ praise of Lal.
“We’re working on a lot of route detail,’’ he said. “Coach Sanjay is great at that, great with details. He’ll slow everything down and sure everything’s perfect.
“Working with him has definitely been a big improvement for me.’’
Lal wouldn’t speculate on what’s been missing from Dorsett’s game, but pointed to his rare deep speed.
“He generates speed,’’ Lal said, “but he has to control his speed. When he figures out how to control his speed, he’ll be in and out of breaks faster and he’ll be able to use all his tools.
“So it’s really a lot like the other guys. It’s really refining his routes, understanding body control and then it should fall into place for him.’’
Reinforcing Dorsett’s optimism is being healthy. He missed five games as a rookie with a fractured left fibula, and still has a plate and seven screws in his leg to remind him. He reluctantly acknowledged the injury slowed his progress heading into the ’16 season.
“No excuses,’’ Dorsett insisted, “but it took time to really get used to cutting off my left leg. But I’m good now.’’
The shadow of expectations always will follow Dorsett. That’s the reality of being a first-round draft pick. It’s incumbent on him to avoid being the Colts’ next Bjoern Werner, the 2013 first-round pick who never panned out and was released following his third season.
In an environment that demands instant gratification, perhaps some perspective would serve a purpose.
Hilton’s arrow has been ascending since the Colts selected him in the third round of the 2012 draft. He notched his first 1,000-yard season in year 2 and was voted to his first Pro Bowl in ’14.
Hilton’s first two seasons (132 receptions, 1,944 yards, 12 touchdowns) dwarf Dorsett’s (51, 753, 3).
But consider the progression of two of the greatest receivers in Colts’ history:
- Reggie Wayne’s first two seasons (2001-02) consisted of 76 receptions, 1,061 yards and four TDs. He didn’t crack the 1,000-yard mark until year 4 and wasn’t selected for the first of six Pro Bowls until year 6.
Yes, his contributions and opportunities were somewhat muted by the presence of Marvin Harrison, but a similar argument – although not nearly as strongly – could be made with Hilton and Dorsett.
- Harrison began his Hall of Fame career with two solid seasons: 137 receptions, 1,702 yards, 14 TDs in 1996-97. He posted the first of eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in year 3 and was named to the first of 8 Pro Bowls in year 4.
So, there’s certainly time for Phillip Dorsett.
But the clock is ticking.