INDIANAPOLIS – Outside of T.Y. Hilton, the most frequent and consistent wide receiver/tight end weapon for Philip Rivers this camp was Trey Burton.
When the Colts got into third down and/or red zone situations, No. 80 was often creating space, with Rivers finding a position that he loves.
Well, Rivers and the Colts look like they very well will have to adapt to life without Burton to start the 2020 season.
Burton’s calf injury that he suffered in Saturday’s practice at Lucas Oil Stadium doesn’t have an exact timetable, but Frank Reich knows that those injuries typically can linger past a couple of weeks.
With the Colts’ season opener on September 13th, it’s quite possible Burton could miss the start of the 2020 season, and possibly more than just one game.
“Still kind of waiting on it to settle down for a day or two to really get a better gauge to how long it may be,” Reich said on Monday. “I can tell you those types of things are generally more than two weeks if you get it, and get it good, but we will just have to see how it settles down here over the next couple of days.”
Any games played without Burton would leave the Colts without a key offensive weapon.
Leading into camp, Reich and Nick Sirianni gushed about Burton’s fit into the Colts offense. Watching Burton operate in full pads with Rivers and company, it quickly became evident of what the staff was saying about their new tight end.
“He’s a stud,” Sirianni said of Burton at the start of camp. “It’s really exciting to have him. He is a great route runner. He has great hands, athletic, really poses mismatches – that we really, like to use at the tight end position. It’s hard to say, ‘We’re going to put a safety on this guy,’ as a defensive coordinator. It’s even harder for them to say, ‘We’re going to put a linebacker on Trey.’ Really excited to have him knowing how much he can create mismatches and how good of a route runner he is and how good of a playmaker he is.
“You can’t have enough playmakers and Trey is definitely a playmaker.”
“There is no doubt Trey is a playmaker,” Reich added on Monday. “That’s why we brought him here. We’ve seen that in the couple weeks of practices that we’ve had. He has unique pass-receiving ability and route-running ability so we are going to miss Trey.”
If healthy, the Colts are expecting big things from Burton this season.
What makes any loss of Burton notable is that his skillset differs so much from the other two top tight ends on the roster—Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox. While those two guys first offer strengths as in-line blockers, the 238-pound Burton is known for his ability to detach from a formation and be a bigger receiving option.
Doyle’s history in this league is as a very consistent pass catcher, but you still want more options at tight end and feel comfortable using multiple TEs within various formations.
Not only does a sidelined Burton limit your pass catching options down the field, it also could shrink the playbook a bit, when it comes to Reich turning to his tight end packages.
Other tight ends currently on the roster (Farrod Green, Xavier Grimble, Dominique Dafney and Andrew Vollert) don’t fit the Burton mold.
Any injury to Burton also quickly grabs attention to his inability to stay on the field last year, which led to the Bears releasing him this past April. Burton dealt with a calf injury in 2019, after feeling like he rushed back from a misdiagnosed injury in the offseason to play in the season opener.
Might that influence how quickly Burton, 28, tries to push through this current injury situation?
Whether it does or not, the Colts are looking at their first hurdle in adapting here in 2020.