INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Da'Rick Rogers might have solved one of the Colts' most pressing problems.
Ever since receiver Reggie Wayne went down for the season with a torn ACL, the Colts have been searching for someone to take the pressure off rising star T.Y. Hilton and give quarterback Andrew Luck a legitimate second option at the position.
Indy turned to Rogers, a troubled player who was booted from the team at the University of Tennessee, went undrafted in April and was cut by Buffalo before the season began. In his second NFL game this past Sunday against Cincinnati, Rogers caught six passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Colts receivers coach Charlie Williams has spent extra time with Rogers, implementing a regimented schedule to help keep his promising rookie focused and out of trouble. Rogers takes nothing for granted, given his path.
"It's a blessing to be here," he said. "Once you get here, it's an honor. It's definitely an opportunity, not a job or a career. You've got to come fight for your job every day."
Rogers knows how important he could be for the Colts. Opponents are double-teaming Hilton and forcing other players to produce. Tight end Coby Fleener has been solid, but none of the wide receivers had made the necessary jump to give the Colts offense the boost it needed.
"With Reggie Wayne going down, we need other guys to step up and make plays," Rogers said. "It is good that going in the playoffs, we have a few games before that, to get trust with Andrew (Luck) and everybody to get together with what we have going for us."
Rogers played none of the Colts' first 11 games. He spent eight on the practice squad and was inactive in the other three. He played against Tennessee on Dec. 1, but did not make a catch.
Finally, against the Bengals, Rogers got his chance. He caught a 69-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and a 2-yard scoring pass in the fourth.
The long touchdown especially impressed Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
"He caught a four- or five-yard pass, and it resulted in a long touchdown, and we need more of that in our offense," Hamilton said. "We're excited about Da'Rick and what he can offer us moving forward."
Luck said he could see Rogers' confidence increase as the game progressed.
"I think he showed himself that he can make plays in this league," Luck said. "I think he showed everybody else what we already knew."
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Rogers has earned a spike in playing time. That likely will mean less action for the struggling Darrius Heyward-Bey, a high-profile offseason pickup who has disappointed.
The Colts are being careful to put Rogers in position to keep progressing. Rogers said handling success won't be an issue with the framework of coaches and leaders around him.
"That's actually one of the things we just got done talking about, me and Chuck Pagano," he said. "It's just one of the things in the past that bothered me and these are some of the things that I've grown here. I've learned how to handle those things. I'm excited. I think I'll do all right."
Rogers' approach has caught Luck's attention.
"I think he's really learned that practice pays dividends," Luck said. "He comes to practice with great energy, great enthusiasm, whether he's running scout team stuff or in there with the guys getting the reps. He's always done a great job. It does pay dividends."
Rogers' performance and second-year receiver LaVon Brazill's three catches for 53 yards and two scores against Cincinnati have given Pagano hope that Hilton can get back to producing the game-breaking plays he had become known for.
"Certainly now, hopefully we continue that trend and it'll take some of that coverage, take it maybe away from T.Y.," Pagano said. "We got to get him (T.Y.) going again."