The Colts were one of the best teams in the NFL on third down last season as they converted 48.6% of their attempts in the regular season. Third down is often considered the “money down” as the best players show up big to keep the offense on the field.
I looked back on 2018 to see how effective the Colts were throwing the football on third down in the regular season. I charted all of Luck’s 157 pass attempts to see how efficient he was and to see which receivers he trusted most. For the year, Luck completed 103 of his 157 third down passes for 1,177 yards and seven touchdowns. He also threw four interceptions and his receivers dropped three targets.
In today’s article, we are going to go receiver by receiver and see just who Luck targeted most on third down and how effective they were with their chances. We will also look at film of each player to see some of their biggest conversions as well.
Hilton was among the league’s best receivers again in 2018 as he totaled 1,270 yards receiving on 76 catches for 6 touchdowns. On third down, he was just as explosive and destructive. He led all pass catchers on the Colts with 39 targets on third down last year. Of those 39 targets, he caught 24 passes for 346 yards (14.4 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. Luck threw one interception targeting Hilton but for the most part, Luck was very efficient when targeting his favorite receiver. Hilton was able to convert 21 of his 39 third down targets for first downs for a conversion rate of 54%.
Hilton catches a drag route in the endzone to put the game away against the Washington Redskins.
Hilton makes a play after the catch on 3rd down to spark the comeback against the Dolphins.
Hilton makes a superstar play against the Titans to finish them off halfway through the third quarter.
Ebron was an outstanding pick up for the Colts as he had a breakout season that led to his first career Pro Bowl appearance in 2018. He had 66 catches for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was second in third down targets with a total of 30. He hauled in 21 of those targets for 255 yards (12.1 yards per catch) and three touchdowns. He also had two drops on third down and Luck had one interception when targeting him. Ebron was able to convert 15 of his 30 targets for first downs which was good for a 50% conversion rate.
Ebron wins off of the line and is able to climb the ladder for the touchdown.
Ebron works the corner route and again is able to go up and make a play on third down for his quarterback.
Coverage mistake leaves Ebron open in the endzone. Luck looks for him a lot in the red zone on third downs.
Inman was a major boost to the Colts offense after he signed near the midway point of the 2018 season. He had a decent impact as he hauled in 28 catches for 304 yards and three touchdowns on the year. He did most of his work on third down. He was tied for fifth on the team in third down targets with 12. On those 12 targets, Inman reeled in 10 catches for 124 yards (12.4 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. Luck had an outstanding 149.3 passer rating when targeting Inman on third downs. Inman was able to convert 9 of those 12 targets for first downs for a 75% conversion rate.
Inman makes a great play for a touchdown in the biggest game of the season for the Colts.
Inman makes an insanely difficult catch over the middle late in the comeback win over the Giants.
Despite facing heavy criticism from the fan base, Rogers had a good season for the Colts. He caught 53 passes for 485 yards and two touchdowns. He was third on the team in targets on third down with 19. On those 19 targets, he had 12 catches for 138 yards. Luck did throw one interception when targeting him on third down but for the most part, Rogers was a solid third or fourth option on the most crucial down. Rogers was able to convert 9 of his 19 targets for first downs last year for a conversion rate of 47%.
Rogers makes his typical play for the Colts as he takes a screen pass for the first down.
Rogers makes one of the biggest plays of the year as he breaks free for a big gain to help win the game against the Dolphins.
The Rest of the Pass Catchers
11 catches on 16 targets for 63 yards. He was able to convert just four of his 16 targets for first downs on the year for a 25% conversion rate.
Five catches on 12 targets for 67 yards. Also had one drop and one interception when targeted on third down. He converted just four of his 12 targets for first downs for a 25% conversion rate.
Four catches on six targets for 47 yards. He converted all four of those catches for first downs and had a 66% conversion rate.
Three catches on four targets for 19 yards and one touchdown. He converted two of his four targets for first downs for a 50% conversion rate.
Five catches on five targets for 45 yards. He converted four of those five targets for first downs for an 80% conversion rate.
One catch on four targets for 11 yards. He converted one of those four targets for first downs and had a 25% conversion rate.
Two catches on two targets for 8 yards. He converted one of those targets for a first down and had a 50% conversion rate.
Two catches on two targets for 24 yards. He converted one of those two targets for first downs and had a 50% conversion rate.
Two catches on three targets for 34 yards. He converted two of those three targets for first downs and had a 66% conversion rate.
Ryan Kelly (Lol)
One catch on one target for -4 yards. He converted zero targets for first downs and had a 0% conversion rate.
It is interesting to analyze this type of production regarding Colts pass catchers. Season stats and numbers get the attention but third down production really shows how much trust a QB has in certain players. From these stats, you can see that Luck clearly trusted Ebron and Hilton more than any other receiver in the offense.
He also trusted players such as Inman, Rogers, and Hines as well on third down but Luck was mostly looking for his top two guys on that pivotal down. The biggest question-mark will be if either Parris Campbell or Devin Funchess can replicate Inman’s efficiency on third down. The one thing that Luck truly needs going into 2019 is another trustworthy target. Regardless, Ebron and Hilton will play a big role on third down.