The area that was most addressed by the Indianapolis Colts this offseason was the wide receiver position. First they signed the talented and intriguing Duron Carter out of the Canadian Football League, and then added veteran and borderline Hall of Famer Andre Johnson in free agency. And once the draft rolled around, they added the explosive and fast Phillip Dorsett in the first round.
The depth at wide receiver has been the biggest observation through training camp so far, as T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Duron Carter, and then even guys like Griff Whalen, Vincent Brown, and Quan Bray have all been impressing. Add in to the picture tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, as well as running backs Frank Gore and Boom Herron, and it's incredibly clear that this offense - led by Andrew Luck - has the potential to be the very best in the NFL in 2015.
Because of the depth at the position and just how many options the team has, however, some have wondered whether we'd see T.Y. Hilton's production decrease. Some even wondered whether Dorsett was drafted to replace Hilton down the road in Indianapolis. Put simply, there have been fears about Hilton's ceiling this year and about how many opportunities he will have in an offense loaded with weapons.
But rather than worrying about that, fans should be excited about Hilton for the 2015 season and it's very reasonable to think that he'll be even better this year than he was last year, when he made the Pro Bowl. Why? Well, let's just use the AFC Championship game last year as an example. Many people use that game as a knock against Hilton, saying that he's not worth the money he will be getting soon from the Colts because he couldn't get open in that game. But let's also consider the options that were playing alongside Hilton. There was Reggie Wayne, who unfortunately was a shell of himself due to injuries suffered over the course of the season. There was Hakeem Nicks, who never seemed to click with Andrew Luck and had a disappointing season. There was Donte Moncrief, a rookie who at that point was mainly just a deep threat. There was Dwayne Allen, who was hampered by injuries for much of the season. There was Coby Fleener, who had a good season as a receiving tight end but still was just that - a tight end, not a wide receiver. And then there was Boom Herron, who provided a nice boost out of the backfield but who had just begun to see increased playing time over the past few weeks. That's it, and to say it was an underwhelming group around Hilton would be an understatement.
For much of the past two seasons, Hilton has been the only consistent receiving threat for the Colts. Yet he's still been fantastic, racking up 164 receptions for 2,428 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has compiled 48 more receptions and 1,041 more yards than any other Colts player during the past two years, while tying for the team lead in touchdowns. Despite being the only real receiving threat, Hilton has still produced - and that's precisely why Hilton could have such a big season in 2015. Now, there are a number of other receivers who can play alongside him and take the attention away from the defense. He's been Andrew Luck's favorite target for the past two seasons, and that likely won't be changing anytime soon.
"He was that guy last year, right?" offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton pointed out today. "You just look at the numbers. I don't think there is any reason to think that T.Y. won't continue to improve his game and go out and make the plays that we know that he can make. We really do feel like that we have at least four or five go-to guys in our pass receiving group and our tight end group. It's a good problem to have so at the end of the day, if we're going to beat the teams that we have to beat that are going to try and play man coverage against us, we have to be able to win all of our matchups across the board and not just try, and I'm talking about myself, try and force the ball to one guy. We're going to take what's there and not what the defense gives us. We are going to take what's there when we need to take it. T.Y., I would argue that he has proven that he is a top-notch receiver in this league and he is somebody that the quarterback can always trust that's going to make the plays for us."
Hamilton pointed out what should be obvious to most, saying that, "I do think that with the addition of the other weapons that we have that you have to be careful with focusing all your attention on just one guy." For the Colts, that means that T.Y. Hilton should see even more favorable matchups this year, opening himself up to a huge season that improves on his Pro Bowl season from a year ago. Basically, defenses will need to pick their poison. Focus on Hilton? Then Johnson, Moncrief, Dorsett, or others will make a play. But since defenses will have to try to cover them all, that should leave a lot of opportunities for the Colts' number one receiver, catching passes from one of the league's best quarterbacks.
"Having played with T.Y. for three years now," Andrew Luck said Monday, "there's not much that'll surprise you with what he does on the field. You know he is incredible. He's got this knack for being able to run down a ball and make it look easy, make a low catch and stay on his feet and make it look easy. I think he's done an incredible job of that all three years. I think we're all continuing to grow and feel more comfortable and try to help out as much as you can. I don't think much surprises me about him anymore."
Though it might come as a surprise to some who think that the depth of the position for the Colts will lead to less productiveness and opportunities for T.Y. Hilton, it should instead be a boost that could help Hilton reach even bigger heights in 2015 while being the number one wideout on one of the league's best offenses.