If you can force yourself to take a break from the excitement about the Colts' wide receiver position in 2015 for just a minute, think back to the struggles the unit had in 2014. Outside of T.Y. Hilton, the Colts really didn't have anyone else step up, and one of those players who disappointed was Hakeem Nicks.
Granted, he improved as the season went on and actually had a few productive games for the team towards the end of the season, but overall it was a very rough season in which Nicks never quite seemed to get on the same page with Andrew Luck and didn't have the burst needed to get open consistently. The stat line that he ended up with actually wasn't too bad, as in 19 games (including playoffs) he caught 44 passes for 503 yards (averaging 11.4 yards per catch) and five scores, but watching the games it was clear that it was a struggle for the veteran receiver.
He signed with the division rival Tennessee Titans this offseason, and he begun training camp with them last week. Interestingly, he said that he wasn't a good fit in offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's system in Indianapolis and that Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt's system fits him much better. Here's what ESPN's Paul Kuharsky wrote this evening:
Pep Hamilton's Colts offense wasn't a very good fit for his skills, Nicks said, but Ken Whisenhunt's scheme is.
"It's more one-on-one, trips backside, vertical throw, shallow-cross game, that's more of my style if you look at my past history, where I excelled," Nicks said.
Before you start poking fun at Nicks for these comments, keep in mind that being in a system that fits your skill set can be a vastly underrated part of a player's success. It doesn't necessarily have to be an excuse, as sometimes the reality is that a player isn't a good fit in one system but is a good fit in another system. That's fair and it can play a big role. You wouldn't think that, in a passing offense with Andrew Luck leading the charge, it would be as big of a deal, but perhaps it was for Nicks - who apparently doesn't think that the Colts utilized his skills correctly.
Maybe that's the reason why he couldn't get any timing down with Andrew Luck. Maybe that's the reason why he struggled to get open at times. Or maybe, he's just trying to keep the Titans and their fans optimistic that 2015 will be better. There's really one way for us to tell whether Nicks is being honest here or whether he's just trying to distance himself from his struggles in 2014: how does he do on the field with the Titans in 2015? He says that he's a good fit for their system, so that should lead to more success, right? If the reason he couldn't succeed while playing with Andrew Luck was because of system fit, then he should be able to have a good season despite the Titans' rookie quarterback (Marcus Mariota) because he's in a system that fits him.
Hopefully Nicks is right and has a nice 2015 season. I'm not going to pile on him for struggles that we've covered often here at Stampede Blue, but system aside, he should still be able to run routes, get open, and succeed with Andrew Luck at quarterback. If not, I don't really think it's the offensive coordinator's fault.