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Phillip Dorsett: Misused in the Colts offense or short on ability?

Phillip Dorsett has not lived up to expectations in Indy thus far, 2017 will be his chance to silence the critics.

Indianapolis Colts v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Phillip Dorsett was drafted in 2015 to be an explosive player who could find the end zone any time he touched the ball. Unfortunately for Indianapolis he has failed to live up to expectations. Durability issues, as well as an inability to create separation has raised questions if Dorsett’s days with the Colts are numbered.

Heading into 2017 training camp, Dorsett must show improvement or he could be moved back in the depth chart in favor of newly signed receiver Kamar Aiken. Let’s look at an overview of Dorsett’s play style, to see what he has done well, and not so well.

Inconsistent Hands

In the clip below Dorsett comes across the screen from the left on a quick slant route. Luck does a great job of delivering a good pass hitting him in stride. This is almost easy as it can get in the NFL and he could not come up with the pass.

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Dorsett’s questionable hands pop up again vs the Steelers on a surprisingly winnable game on Thanksgiving night. With Andrew Luck injured every player needed to step up under the lights. On this play Scott Tolzien makes the right throw and puts it on his outside shoulder - a tough catch to make, but a catch that had to be made. Dorsett couldn’t come up with the pass and the result of the play was a turnover on downs.

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This next play, Luck does a superb job of extending the play and finds Dorsett. This time he not only comes down with the ball in a much tougher circumstance, but actually boxes out the defender - and catches the ball at it’s highest point. Plays like this shows that he is capable of making tough catches, but he just needs to do it on a more consistent basis.

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Here in 2015 against the Titans, Dorsett finds a way to come down with a contested ball, despite being clobbered.

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Dorsett will drop some easy passes, then turn around and make extremely difficult plays as well. Overall he has very inconsistent hands at best. Improvement needs to be made in this area to be a more successful receiver.

Elite level Explosiveness

Dorsett’s biggest strength is his explosiveness. In this play the safety bites on an underneath out route. The split second breakdown in coverage gave Dorsett all the time he needed to blow by the cornerback. At that point it was a foot race, something he doesn’t lose often.

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This is a great example of Dorsett’s speed advantage. The cornerback is giving him plenty of cushion in a man-to-man situation. Phillip shows tremendous acceleration as he runs by the cornerback, then comes down with a contested ball.

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Side note: Here is the same play from a different angle. This view shows how far the ball is traveling, and the excellent ball placement. That Andrew Luck guy is pretty good.

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Here against one of the best defenses in 2016, Dorsett is aided by a play-action, however his speed creates tons of separation and results in a touchdown.

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As I stated above Dorsett’s biggest strength is his explosiveness. More often then not he is the fastest man on the field. His big play ability has never been in question, and is the main reason why Ryan Grigson took him in the first round.

Limited Route Running

Dorsett is running a seam route against the Broncos, not having a plethora of routes in his arsenal can lead to predictability which can be seen below. The defender commits to the deep ball at the start of the play, and the result is an incompletion.

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On a game clinching play vs the Packers, Luck actually completes a post pattern to TY Hilton. After completing that pass the Colts were able to kneel out the clock. At the top of the screen it appears that Dorsett is actually the better option. He runs a very smooth double move route that the defender bit on. If Luck throws an accurate ball to Phillip, that’s a touchdown.

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This is a play I would like to see more of from the Colts offense. They take advantage of a natural pick play, allowing Dorsett to catch a short pass, and turn up field - gaining some quick and easy extra yardage.

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After viewing the tape on Dorsett’s routes, he does make good cuts. The issue is that he doesn’t have a vast repertoire of routes he runs as of now, so it is easy for a defender to predict what he may be doing. The hope is that Dorsett will work on his route running this offseason, and become more than a vertical route runner.


Dorsett needs to expand his route tree and show that he is reliable catching the football. Generally speaking, it appears the Colts have not put him in the best situation to succeed. The coaching staff needs to do a better job of getting the ball in his hands in open space - not just on deep developing routes. Quick slants, and bubble screens would be a welcome addition to the offense. Creativeness has been lacking from the Colts offense, and although Dorsett has his flaws, adding a few designed plays for him per game would help.

I believe if he cannot develop a similar style of play like TY Hilton, he can still find a role on the team similar to how Percy Harvin provided an explosive threat to his teams. This season could be his last opportunity to make things work in Indianapolis, so we will have to wait and see until then.