INDIANAPOLIS -- T.Y. Hilton and ...
The Indianapolis Colts' options for 2020 at wide receiver beyond their top threat are wide open.
Parris Campbell will be back for his second season, but questions about his durability have already started after he played in only seven games because of four different injuries during his rookie season. Zach Pascal stepped up in Hilton’s absence last season, but he’s more suited to be a strong No. 3 receiver than a No. 1 or 2 receiver.
All that general manager Chris Ballard knows is that the Colts must get more production out of that group to help Jacoby Brissett -- or whoever the next starting quarterback is.
“Do we need to add more explosive elements to our offense? Yeah, we do,” Ballard said.
Injuries were the theme for the Colts' receivers in 2019. Hilton, Campbell, Devin Funchess and Chester Rogers combined to miss 34 out of a possible 64 games last season. That’s a tough situation for any quarterback to overcome.
“The injuries at wideout ... I’ve got to do a better job of making sure we have enough depth for when those guys have to play,” Ballard said.
Hilton, like Campbell, will be back, but he’ll be 31 years old in November. Funchess and Rogers are both free agents. Ballard hasn't shut the door on Funchess returning -- he played in less than one game before a collarbone injury.
Problems at receiver went beyond injuries. The team lacked playmakers outside of Hilton, who battled through a calf injury most of the season. He was more of a decoy at times when teams locked in on him, leaving the rest of the receivers trying -- and failing -- to take advantage of their opportunities.
Pascal led the Colts in receiving yards with just 607. Of the 64 NFL players who had more receiving yards than Pascal, 51 of them were receivers. And there were 38 players who had more 20-plus-yard plays than Pascal’s team high of 11. No other Colts wide receiver caught more than the 18 that Campbell caught in seven games.
“I look at the struggles we’ve had in the passing game as they were team struggles -- obviously primarily offense,” Reich said. “That starts with coaching and certainly playing, personnel and all of that. It all gets evaluated. We’ve got to hold ourselves accountable. I mean, we know our fans want championship football. We are used to around here in this area of the country of knowing how to throw the football. So we are going to throw the football, OK? We will figure it out. We didn’t do a good enough job this year. We will do better next year.”
Ideally, the Colts would acquire a receiver who combines size, strength and speed to go with Hilton’s speed and toughness. They thought Funchess would be that guy until his season ended before the conclusion of their Week 1 game at the Los Angeles Chargers last season.
The draft, according to ESPN’s Louis Riddick, is deep enough for teams to find playmakers for next season.
“If you need a WR, there is zero doubt this is one of the best years to get one that I can remember in the past 20 seasons,” Riddick tweeted during the Senior Bowl last month. “They are getting bigger, faster, stronger, harder to defend.”
Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr., TCU’s Jalen Reagor, Clemson’s Tee Higgins and LSU’s Justin Jefferson are projected to be some of the top receivers selected in the April draft.
It’s good that there’s some depth at receiver in the draft because it’s not an earth-shattering free-agent market at that position outside of Amari Cooper (79 receptions, 1,189 yards). The Colts have struggled to find a second receiver to go with Hilton for quite some time.
“Just guys that have the ball. I don’t know if you ever get one out of college ranks who is completely polished," Ballard said. "They have traits to be ready. It’s one of the harder positions coming in this league. Can it be done? Yes. It can absolutely can be done. You see it in the league right now. With all the press coverage, with all the different looks they get. Then with the physicality and all the things they have to deal with in our league. It’s not an easy transition. Just want somebody who can catch the ball and go score.”