Once is chance, twice is a coincidence, third time is a pattern. Zach Pascal is slowly emerging as an effective starting receiver for the Colts. He finished his game against the Steelers with 5 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, including some highlight reel catches. With TY Hilton out for the new few games including this last game against the Steelers, Pascal will be relied upon for production. So far, he has delivered.
Injuries and generally poor receiver play has allowed Pascal to climb the depth chart. When on the field, he has performed. He started the season out as a key special teams player and a rotational receiver who was primarily used to block, since that’s where his strength is. As injuries piled up, he got more chances.
Pascal is a big bodied receiver with good hands, good blocking skills and can win 50/50 balls. He knows how to use his body to shield off defenders and adjusts well to passes. Those traits are valuable in a receiver, as it means he can do it all. A well rounded receiver is important to have on the field as it means he can play the large majority of the snaps without ever being a liability.
This small highlight reel of Pascal vs the Texans indicates one thing that has become very apparent: he is a very good hands catcher.
Even this touchdown catch against the Steelers shows off his underrated hands (skip to 4:50 if the video doesn’t automatically do it).
The ability to catch away from your body and to rely on your hands to catch and not your body is an important trait that separates good receivers from great receivers. Oftentimes, body catchers have serious issues with drops as they allow the ball to hit their body, which in turn ricochets off their pads and hits the ground. Hands catchers never allow this to happen. The Texans game film might seem like a small sample size, but in almost every one of his catches, if given the chance to (which means if the pass isn’t thrown behind or poorly), he will catch the ball outside of his body frame.
Perhaps Pascal’s biggest strength is his blocking. Our own Zach Hicks wrote about Pascal’s blocking amongst other things last month. Throughout the season, we’ve seen Pascal line up as a slot or motion in between the tackles to lead block at times. The coaching staff clearly has a level of comfort with him as a blocker. Being able to block is an important trait as a receiver and will lead to a more playing time. It’s what separated Hines Ward early on in his career before he took off in his 4th year. Ruggedness, toughness and an ability to outwork your opponent will never get old and Pascal takes pride in outworking and angering opponents with how hard he blocks.
What can we expect from Pascal after the season? These last few games have proven that he deserves a good role in this offense. While he might not be the reliable, long-term dynamic #2 complimentary receiver that TY Hilton has needed since Reggie Wayne, his good hands and blocking ability seem perfect for a #3 slot receiver in this offense.
Pascal will have more chances this season to prove his worth. Based on his good hands, great ability as a blocker and great all around effort, I believe Pascal is someone who is going to stick in this offense and as he builds more rapport with Jacoby Brissett, he should get more and more looks. He isn’t the same receiver as he was last year, where he was ineffective most of the time. He has clearly improved and looks like a starting receiver. While many have hyped up Deon Cain, Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell, it’s Zach Pascal who has been the 2nd most productive receiver on the Colts this season. Expect him to continue to perform as the season goes on.