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Depth at receiver pushes Colts’ Hilton to lead by example

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If T.Y. Hilton fears a diminished role, he masks it well.

He not only applauds the quality of the Indianapolis Colts’ depth at the position he happens to play, he embraces it.

“The competition is very high. I think that all phases of the game, especially the receivers (and) DBs, we’re all competing at a high level,” said Hilton, one of 12 wide receivers on the pre-training camp roster. “Right now, (Organized Team Activities) is all about the individual. Once you get to the season, when you get to 53 (players), then it’s about the team.

“But right now, we’ve got to compete against one another and just help each other out.”


Regardless how the competition shakes out, odds heavily favor Hilton, 24, once again playing a prominent role in a      suddenly deep receiving corps that promises to provide third-year Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck multiple targets, at any time.

A playmaker throughout his first two seasons, the third-year pro last year led the Colts in receptions (82), receiving yards (1,083) and touchdown catches (five). And he did it all despite being a defensive focal point after injuries dramatically depleted the receiving ranks.

And that’s not all.

In a come-from-behind 45-44 wild-card playoff win against Kansas City, Hilton had 13 catches for two touchdowns and a franchise-playoff-record 224 yards. The yardage also was the third-highest for the postseason in NFL history.

Combine all of the above with the fact Hilton was almost equally as productive as a rookie (50 catches, 861 yards and seven touchdowns), and it’s easy to understand why he’s virtually certain to maintain a high profile in a receiving unit that, barring injuries, could be among the league’s finest.

“I thought he came into his own, day one, when he walked into this facility,” third-year Colts tight end Coby Fleener said. “He’s been impressive from the get-go. I think the sky’s the limit for T.Y., and it’s going to be hard to beat his statistics from the past few years just because they’re outstanding.

“He’s one of the leaders on this team, both on the field and in the locker room.”

That’s not likely to change, despite the anticipated return to full health of veteran Reggie Wayne, who missed the final nine games with an ACL tear, and the free agent signing of Hakeem Nicks, who played an instrumental role in the New York Giants’ 2012 Super Bowl win.

By virtue of his production and still rising ceiling, Hilton is all but assured to be among Luck’s preferred targets — of which there are now many, including tight ends.

Besides Wayne, third-year tight Dwayne Allen — who suffered a season-ending hip injury in Week 1 — is expected to be healthy for the start of training camp. And Fleener, last year’s second-leading receiver, will likely factor heavily into the production mix.

But even that’s not all.

Of the 12 receivers on the Colts’ roster, six are experienced players — Wayne, Nicks, Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Da’Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen.

Where some might see a crowd, Hilton sees an opportunity for high personal and team success.

“We’ve got some good depth at receiver, and now we’ve just go to battle it out,” he said. “Right now we’re just focusing on getting better on offense every day and just staying within ourselves and playing for one another. I feel good, healthy. I know the plays, so that’s allowed me to go fast.

“I pretty much know all the positions, so (the game) is slowing down for me, real slow. I know what to expect now.”

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