Luck has youthful pass-catchers for Colts

Andrew Luck’s dynamic rookie season is even more impressive when

considering that most of the people he’s throwing to are new to the

NFL, too.

Five of the Colts quarterback’s top seven pass catchers are in

their first season. Receivers T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill, tight

ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener and running back Vick Ballard

are all learning the ropes along with Luck.

The youngsters have helped Luck put most meaningful rookie

passing records in jeopardy. Luck has passed for 3,596 yards,

fourth in the league behind Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, New

Orleans’ Drew Brees and Dallas’ Tony Romo. The Colts (8-4) rank

third in the league in total offense heading into Sunday’s home

game against Tennessee (4-8).

Because Luck is a rookie, the young receivers have the benefit

of an understanding quarterback.

”A guy runs the wrong route or breaks the wrong way, he

understands because he’s a young guy, too. If you’re dealing with a

veteran quarterback, you might get fussed out or something like

that, and that might cause you to lose a little bit of

confidence,” Allen said. ”Andrew’s a young guy, just like us. He

understands that we all make mistakes, him included, so he tries to

make us feel as comfortable as possible when we make those

mistakes.”

The young receivers say veteran wideout Reggie Wayne, who ranks

third in the league in receptions and yards, has helped them

develop. The scary part? They’re just getting started as a

unit.

”We’re still figuring out each other,” Hilton said. ”We’re

young, but we’ve got a few veterans we can lean on. We’re growing

and the bond is getting stronger.”

Donnie Avery, the team’s No. 2 receiver, is a senior statesman

at age 28. He scored the winning touchdown last week in Detroit

with no time remaining.

”We just play our role,” Avery said. ”When our number’s

called we just try to make plays. Everybody just complements 12

(Luck) and 87 (Wayne).”

Avery has 49 catches for 675 yards. Hilton ranks third on the

team in catches (39) and yards (588). Allen is fourth on the team

in both categories (36 for 435). Fleener, Luck’s teammate at

Stanford, has 22 catches for 248 yards.

LaVon Brazill has 10 for 178 yards and leads the team in yards

per reception. He scored his first NFL touchdown last Sunday in the

fourth quarter at Detroit.

Ballard has 14 catches for 133 yards, including a dramatic dive

for a game-winning touchdown reception in the first meeting with

Tennessee.

Hilton, a speedster from Florida International, is opening eyes

with his ability to make game-changing plays. He had two touchdowns

against Buffalo two weeks ago, including a 75-yard punt return for

a score. He led the team with six catches last week against

Detroit. He has set the team record for 100-yard games for a rookie

with four.

”He’s a great receiver,” Avery said. ”He’s young in the game,

but he makes plays. He knows how to get open, he knows how to catch

the ball. He’s going to be special.”

The offense has developed surprising effectiveness for a group

that is so new and lacks NFL experience. The Colts have put

together five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and

overtime. Hilton said it’s partially because Luck knows he can go

to any of his targets.

”He’s trusting us to be in the right spot at the right time,”

Hilton said. ”He drops back three steps and he’s looking, he knows

we’re going to be there. Chemistry is growing. We know people are

going to double-team, triple-team Reggie and make other guys get

them. That’s when we step up and be accountable.”

Allen said the coaching staff expects the rookies to perform

like veterans.

”They demand us young guys to not play like rookies,” he said.

”It’s week 14. You’re not a rookie anymore. That’s what they say

all the time.”