T.Y. Hilton understood this year’s challenge.
The Colts needed their speedy, second-year receiver to be a more reliable pass catcher, a better route runner and a more consistent deep threat even if he wasn’t listed as a starter after training camp.
Through five weeks, the smallish receiver has had a big hand in Indianapolis’ success.
“The game is slowing down for me,” Hilton said Thursday. “You know I had a whole offseason to work with Reggie (Wayne) and Andrew (Luck), and I learned a lot from Reggie about getting in and out of breaks.”
The Colts never doubted Hilton’s ability to be a game-changer, which is why they made a trade to get the little-known 5-foot-9, 178-pound receiver late in the third round of the 2012 draft. Indy’s scouts clocked him in the 40-yard dash at 4.37 seconds, running into the wind.
He was a second-team all-state selection in Florida’s biggest prep class, 6A, and became the highest-drafted player from Florida International after setting school records for receptions (229), yards receiving (3,351) and touchdowns (24), winning the Sun Belt’s freshman of the year award in 2008 and the league’s player of the year award in 2010.
As a rookie, Hilton caught 50 passes for 861 yards, the second-highest total by a rookie in franchise history. He led the league’s rookies with seven touchdown catches, had five 100-yard games, breaking Andre Rison’s franchise record for a rookie (three), and became the first player in franchise history with a TD catch and a punt return for a touchdown in the same game.
He returned this season determined to cut down on his drops and help the Colts make a deeper playoff run. So far, so good.
The Colts (4-1) have sole possession of the AFC South lead for the first time since Peyton Manning’s departure, and Hilton already has 20 receptions for 342 yards, well ahead of last year’s numbers.
On Sunday, he scored twice in a 34-28 victory over previously unbeaten Seattle.
Hilton got past Richard Sherman for a 73-yard TD pass in the first half and beat Brandon Browner with a nifty toe-tap for a 29-yard catch in the second half, finishing the game with five catches for a career-high 140 yards against what is one of the league’s best secondaries.
That performance came after Browner questioned Hilton about his size.
“Seattle didn’t know who they were trash-talking with,” Hilton said. “Little did he (Browner) know that would get me going.”
Around the league
Eagles coach Chip Kelly might wait until Sunday before deciding on his starting quarterback for Philadelphia’s game at Tampa Bay. Michael Vick is nursing a pulled hamstring, suffered in last Sunday’s win over the Giants, and has been limited all week. Nick Foles worked with the first team on Thursday. … Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik say guard Carl Nicks is being treated for a recurrence of the MRSA infection in the “same place, same location,” in his left foot. Nicks missed most of training camp in late August due to complications with the infection. … Detroit WR Calvin Johnson was back on the practice field, although it’s not clear how likely he is to play Sunday at Cleveland. Johnson was inactive in a loss at Green Bay last weekend because of an injured right knee. … Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson did not attend practice Thursday due to personal reasons. The team says he is expected to return today. … Atlanta signed WR Brian Robiskie, son of Falcons WR coach Terry Robiskie. … After considering retirement the last few months, QB David Garrard has re-signed with the New York Jets to serve as a veteran backup and mentor to rookie Geno Smith. … When unbeaten Kansas City host Oakland on Sunday, it will be trying to break a Guinness world record for loudest sports crowd roar in an outdoor sports stadium (136.6 decibels) that was set earlier this year by Seahawks fans during a game against the 49ers in Seattle.
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