Colts 1st-Rounder Starting To Get Bigger Role In Colts Offense
Thursday, September 27th 2007, 3:22 pm
News On 6
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Anthony Gonzalez considers himself a quick study.
But even he was confused by the Indianapolis offense. Three weeks ago, Gonzalez, the Colts' first-round draft pick, acknowledged he was still struggling to pick up Peyton Manning's repertoire of audibles and hand signals.
Now that he's figured that out, Gonzalez is starting to make plays.
``I think when you come into a situation where the quarterback is a veteran quarterback and he's been with veteran receivers, there's certainly a level of trust he has with them,'' Gonzalez said. ``You've got to develop that and that's part of the situation here.''
Gonzalez is the next in a long line of Colts draft picks who have been brought along slowly.
Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne didn't start until mid-October his first season. Three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney set a franchise record for sacks his rookie year despite not starting until November. Tight end Dallas Clark spent his first season with the Colts as the No. 2 tight end, while safety Bob Sanders and cornerback Marlin Jackson _ the Colts' top picks in 2004 and 2005 _ combined for five starts as rookies.
And last year's No. 1 pick, Joseph Addai, didn't make his starting debut until the playoffs.
Gonzalez may be slightly ahead of those paces.
After playing sparingly with Manning during the preseason and again in the Colts' opener against New Orleans, Gonzalez caught three passes in a victory at Tennessee and two more in Sunday's victory at Houston.
Whether that's a signal Gonzalez will be used more frequently in the next few games remains to be seen, but Gonzalez senses he's starting to fit in with the defending Super Bowl champs.
Still, Gonzalez has those rookie moments.
His first NFL catch, an 8-yarder on a third-and-4 play at Tennessee, was challenged and overturned. But when the Colts went into their two-minute drill, he caught three passes _ the first two for more than 20 yards each _ on the team's last drive of the first half. Eventually, it helped set up Adam Vinatieri's 22-yard field goal that was the difference in a 22-20 win.
At Houston, Manning threw five passes to Gonzalez in the first half. He caught one in each of the Colts' first two scoring drives for 39 yards. Yet he also dropped a pass when he started to run before tucking the ball away.
Not the kind of play that helps build trust.
``I'd say I'm not where I need to be yet, but I'm getting there,'' Gonzalez said. ``The Tennessee game, I thought I played pretty well. The last game, I thought I played well except for two or three plays _ one in particular.''
Other Colts players empathize with Gonzalez.
Clark, one of Manning's favorite targets, said Wednesday it took three seasons for him to fully comprehend all of Manning's carefully scripted nuances, calls and signals _ and all the changes he makes to keep opponents from figuring them out.
``When I started it seemed like you'd hear a new call every week, and you're like 'What is this?''' Clark said, with Gonzalez sitting within earshot. ``You can't play fast if you don't know what you're doing.''
In Wayne's case, it took three years for him to emerge as a primary option for Manning and four years to join the 1,000-yard club. But over the last three years, Wayne has averaged 82 catches, nearly 1,200 yards and about nine touchdowns per year.
And between Clark's comments, Addai's play and Wayne's jump, has it given Gonzalez confidence he can follow in their footsteps?
``I get more comfortable every week and, hopefully, I don't make any mental errors,'' he said. ``I'm certainly more comfortable now because I feel like the audibles haven't given me many problems the last few weeks.''