INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL is all about timing and opportunity. When the two meet, it’s up to players to make the most of it.
The final four weeks of the regular season could be filled with opportunities for the Indianapolis Colts’ wide receiving corps.
Chad Williams was called up from the practice squad Tuesday to join the injury-ravaged group, and he’s likely to see playing time Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A third-round pick out of Grambling State in 2017, Williams appeared in 16 games with the Arizona Cardinals over the past two seasons.
After being cut at the end of training camp in September, Williams has been on the Colts’ practice squad biding his time for his next opportunity.
“You want to play so bad,” Williams said. “But, at the same time, it’s God’s speed. Whenever God wants it to happen, that’s when it’s gonna happen.”
There’s reason to believe Williams can make an impact.
At 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, he makes for a sizable target. And he’s impressed his teammates with his work in practice.
Marcus Johnson, who had four catches for 55 yards in last week’s loss to the Tennessee Titans is one of the more experienced healthy receivers on the roster, quickly could see Williams’ potential when he returned to Indianapolis about a month ago.
“Chad’s been consistent since I got here, man,” Johnson said. “He’s a competitor, a lot of energy. He’s one of those guys that’s contagious. We all laugh and (are) competing with one another. So I’m excited for him.
“We’ve already talked about it. A lot of times, when you see a guy like that, you know it’s a matter of time before he gets moved up and gets that chance. So we’re excited. We’re pumped up.”
The door opened for Williams when veteran Chester Rogers went down with a fractured knee against the Titans. He was placed on injured reserve Monday and will not play again this season.
Rogers joined wide receiver Devin Funchess (clavicle) and tight end Eric Ebron (ankles) as pass catchers to head to IR in the past two weeks.
With four-time Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton also sidelined by a calf injury, there is very little experience on the active receiver depth chart.
Williams’ 20 career catches are tied for second-most among the five players who potentially could play at Tampa Bay, and his 202 receiving yards rank third.
Three undrafted players – Johnson, Zach Pascal and rookie Ashton Dulin – join Williams on the depth chart. Second-round rookie Parris Campbell also could return this week if his fractured hand responds well to practice.
The situation is far from ideal, but it opens up possibilities for hungry young players.
Pascal took advantage with seven catches for 109 yards against Tennessee, posting his second career 100-yard game, and his success could fuel others.
“We all compete, and you wanna have that big game, but at the same time, it’s contagious,” Johnson said. “(Pascal) gets up, he makes a big play, and then we get ours when it comes and we make a big play.
“You just feed off of each other, and then the numbers are the numbers. As long as you’re having a good game and you know you’re playing well and taking care of yours, the rest is just having fun out there.”
Fun has been in precious short supply for a struggling offense over the past five weeks.
The Colts have averaged just 17.5 points in the four losses during that span, and they’ve turned the ball over nine times in those defeats.
But the passing game showed signs of life against Tennessee. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed passes to eight different players and finished with 319 passing yards.
Johnson said the untested receivers want to show the world their ability over the final four weeks, and the fact many of them have been overlooked throughout their careers only adds to their desire.
“Any time you get an opportunity to play and play significant time, I think that most definitely they want to get a chance to show what they can do,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. “I think the undrafted thing probably does play into it. They get an opportunity to make plays out there and show people what they passed up on.”
Defensive end Jabaal Sheard has been chosen as Indianapolis’ recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
Players on each of the NFL’s 32 teams select a winner for their franchise, and each honoree is honored during a March banquet in Baltimore.
Block was the head athletic trainer for the Baltimore Colts from 1954-77, and proceeds from the banquet go to the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation in Baltimore. The foundation works to establish homes for abused children in every NFL city. Indianapolis’ home opened in 2000.
Sheard also was the Colts’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2018.
“It’s an honor to receive this award, especially since it was voted on by the guys in this locker room,” Sheard said in a team release. “I read up on the award and just to be included in this select group is incredible. To be included with names like (past winners) Peyton Manning and Dwight Freeney is amazing.
“I am honored to represent the Colts and be one of the 32 award winners. I am so thankful to be able to give back to the Indianapolis community, which has given so much back to me over the past three years.”