Raise your hand if you have been frustrated with Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton at any point recently.
I’m guilty as well; my hand is raised.
To be honest, I think it was perfectly reasonable to have some frustrations with him at times this season. While some may have been turned off by Hilton’s answers when speaking to the media, others have taken issue with his inconsistency on the field. People called for him to be traded before last week’s deadline or next offseason. While I understand the disappointment, I will distance myself from that portion of the crowd.
Hilton unquestionably is the Colts offense’s biggest playmaker, yet he has been completely erased from several games this year. This time last week, he had two enormous games so far this season – Weeks 3 and 5 – where he combined for 14 catches for 330 yards and 1 touchdown. However, in the other six games, he combined for 15 catches for 197 yards and 0 touchdowns. Hilton also was in the midst of a three-game slump (Weeks 6-8) where he totaled 5 catches for 61 yards and 0 touchdowns.
Then, Sunday happened and it opened some more eyes.
Hilton exploded down in Houston against the Texans, grabbing 5-of-8 targets for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the first score, he simply won by beating the defense downfield. However, the second touchdown was all determination. He raced 80 yards down the field, leaped over a defender, and after realizing he hadn’t been touched down by contact, got up and raced the rest of the way to the end zone.
It was a fitting way for the football gods to show Colts fans to give Hilton a break and that he was the next in line of great franchise receivers behind Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison – the latter being the last player they had seen get up and score after not being touched down.
Here’s the thing, these huge games are nothing new for Hilton. When the NFL sent out their regular Sunday evening email in Week 9, Hilton was among their top highlights:
That stat is incredible. The Ghost’s career can’t be measured along with that of The G.O.A.T., The Freak and Bambi yet, but it cannot be denied that he (and Julio Jones) have done something that only those three others have done.
Hilton has undoubtedly disappeared in games this season, but if you look beyond the box score and try to contextualize it, you can see some reasoning. The biggest takeaway that I have seen is that the Colts’ young quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, still is very much a work in progress. There have been reads that he has missed that could have been big plays for Hilton. It’s not just Hilton, either. Donte Moncrief likely would have had a bigger impact so far this year if Brissett were more seasoned.
Teams also key on Hilton as their primary focus in stopping the Colts offense. No other receiver has proven to be any sort of threat to defenses this year, so opponents know exactly what to do.
Be mad at times, yes, but don’t think that jettisoning the Colts’ best offensive player (with Andrew Luck out) is going to solve anything other than setting the offense back. How would it look for Luck if he returned to the field and didn’t have Hilton out there? Reasoning that drafting a receiver to replace Hilton would solve it also is flawed logic. Remember former first-round pick Phillip Dorsett?
You also can look at the fact that Hilton currently is the NFL’s second leading receiver (702) only behind the best wide receiver in the league, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (835). As I’m sure you are aware, nobody had more receiving yards than Hilton in 2016 – not Brown, Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans or A.J. Green.
The Colts have just three wins this season, and it’s no coincidence that those three wins came in Hilton’s monster games. You don’t get rid of players who prove, time and again, that they are valuable and are among the best.