INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Duron Carter has that NFL look.
At 6-foot-5, 211 pounds, he’s a big enough receiver to take advantage of mismatches. He’s fast enough to go deep or return kicks and, like his Hall of Fame dad, Cris, the Colts rookie receiver has demonstrated a penchant for making big plays.
Now comes the tricky part: Proving he can consistently take those tools from the practice field to game day.
“When Duron is on, he can be one of the most elite wide receivers around,” cornerback D’Joun Smith. “He’s got a great physical frame, good speed, he can run routes and he gets good body position on you.”
Smith knows better than anyone in the locker room about Carter’s capabilities because he defended Carter in practice when the two were teammates at Florida Atlantic.
Yet the questions about Carter have almost always focused on his inability to meet or exceed lofty expectations.
The once highly touted prep star started his college career at his father’s alma mater, Ohio State, and caught 13 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown before being declared academically ineligible.
After his only season in Columbus, Carter was off to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas where he caught 44 passes for 690 yards and 10 TDs. Carter then landed at Alabama, where more academic woes forced him to redshirt in 2011 and threatened his eligibility in 2012.
That’s when Carter finally went home. He spent one year at Florida Atlantic, but didn’t play a down before declaring early for the 2013 NFL draft.
Carter’s unremarkable college stats - 57 catches, 868 yards and 11 TDs - and a lack of game tape made it easy for NFL scouts to overlook him on draft weekend.
“I guess you could say all I did was practice,” Carter said, using a slightly different version of the phrase that defined his father’s pro career.
So Carter headed north to the CFL and jump-started his career in Montreal. Over the past two seasons, Carter caught 124 passes for 1,939 yards and 12 touchdowns and was a CFL All-Star in 2014 - finally catching the attention of NFL teams.
In February, Carter opted to take his chances with Andrew Luck and the high-scoring Colts - and it didn’t take his new teammates long to see the promise in their new receiver.
“I’ve seen a huge difference since OTAs. He’s increased his game a lot,” second-year receiver Donte Moncrief said. “He’s been better in the red zone, really good in the red zone.”
The problem is that Carter’s good practices haven’t translated into much productivity in the first two preseason games.
At training camp, Carter routinely wowed coaches, teammates and fans with long catches. But in the first two preseason games, Carter has only one catch for 16 yards.
Will that be enough to win a job with a Super Bowl contender?
Barring injuries or a trade, Indy has already filled the first four spots on the depth chart with Pro Bowlers T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson, Moncrief and first-round draft pick Phillip Dorsett.
Carter is trying to beat out two other NFL veterans, Vincent Brown and Griff Whalen, and another rookie, Quan Bray, for what is likely to be the last spot or two and time is running out.
Indy visits St. Louis on Saturday and has its traditional preseason finale against Cincinnati next Thursday.
Carter, who has not yet seen any action with the starters, is hoping he’ll have more playing time in these final two games to impress general manager Ryan Grigson and the Colts coaches.
“I still need that groundwork to get me in there,” Carter said when asked about his chances of making the opening day roster. “I think the arrows are going up, but I feel like I need to get more arrows going up so I can prove the way they expect me to.”
Notes: Coach Chuck Pagano downgraded Greg Toler (strained neck) from day to day to week to week. Offensive lineman Hugh Thornton (knee) also is listed as week to week. … Cornerback Deveron Carr (concussion), receiver Phillip Dorsett (bruised right knee), tight end Coby Fleener (ankle), safety Dewey McDonald (knee) are all considered day to day, Pagano said.
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