The Indianapolis Colts made another splashy move in free agency as they signed 16-year veteran Philip Rivers to a one year, 25 million dollar contract. This is Rivers’ second time playing under Colts’ Head Coach Frank Reich, as Reich was the Chargers’ Offensive Coordinator from 2014 to 2016.
In today’s film room, we will be looking at the strengths of Rivers’ game and what he does that makes him an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. This article will mostly be positives that Rivers brings to the team, but keep an eye out for an article by Chris Blystone tomorrow that will go over all of his interceptions from 2019.
One of the biggest areas of concern for Brissett last season with the Colts was his inability to read defenses and anticipate throws. With Rivers, that should no longer be an issue. With all his experience in the NFL, Rivers is well-versed in hitting routes on time and anticipating windows in traffic. He isn’t afraid to let passes go before he sees a wide open receiver as he can anticipate where his player is going to be with his passes. This does lead to some interceptions, but it also leads to significantly more positive plays for the offense.
This first clip is a perfect example of anticipation. With pressure in his face, Rivers hits the out route in stride for the first down. Notice when he releases the ball compared to where the receiver is at that time. He releases it well before the receiver is out of his route, and the result is a beautiful throw for the first down.
Pressure is again closing in on Rivers but he is able to relax himself and locate his best matchup on the outside. He releases the ball as soon as he sees Keenan Allen break to the outside and the result is a perfect pass to the boundary where the cornerback can’t make a play on the ball.
Timing is everything when throwing over the middle in the NFL, and Rivers delivers this ball with great velocity and confidence. He hits Mike Williams in stride over the middle as he comes out of his break, which allows the talented receiver to create yards after the catch.
This ball is a perfect strike to the back of the end zone for the touchdown. In close quarters inside the ten yard line, Rivers delivers a perfectly-timed pass over the linebackers to the back of the end zone to tight end Hunter Henry. His ability to not only read a defense, but to find his best matchup and anticipate the play before it happens is what makes Rivers a very solid quarterback, even this late into his career.
Trust in his receivers
While having too much trust in receivers can be a bit of a bad thing, you have to have some faith in your players to make plays as a quarterback. Rivers understands that it is his job to distribute the ball to his playmakers, putting passes out there for his talented weapons to make plays on. While he will have a drop off in talent at wide receiver as he goes to the Colts, having this ability to trust his receivers should produce more big plays on Sundays for the team.
This pass is into tight one-on-one coverage on the outside, but Rivers trusts his receiver and his own ability to place the ball on the outside shoulder on this third down. He makes the difficult throw and as a result, Keenan Allen is able to break a tackle and get down field for a huge gain.
Back shoulder throws are something we rarely saw last year with the Colts. Here, Rivers sees a matchup he loves on the outside, and drops a beautiful back shoulder pass to the sideline for the catch. This type of play takes so much trust in your receiver and Rivers doesn’t even hesitate to put this pass out there.
Rivers is not afraid to throw the ball into a little bit of traffic if he sees a matchup he likes. Here, he threads the needle between two defenders in tight coverage over the middle of the field. Some of these throws will lead to dangerous passes, but, on the whole, the offense is better with this type of passer rather than a passive one.
Another beautiful back shoulder throw just for good measure. Rivers has a ton of trust in his receivers and has enough confidence to let his players make plays. It may take a little time for him to build that trust with the Colts, but having play makers like T.Y Hilton, Jack Doyle, and Nyheim Hines should make it a fairly easy transition for him.
While Rivers has lost a little bit in terms of arm strength and velocity over the years, he still possesses great accuracy and touch. He drops passes in the bucket when given the chance and can still place balls wherever he wants to on every pass. This ability allows receivers to make plays after the catch and opens up so many plays that simply weren’t made in 2019 with Brissett.
This first pass is simply beautiful. He recognizes man coverage with the blitz and drops a beautiful pass in the bucket while pressure caves in on him. This type of play would never have been made last year with the Colts, and you can see the talent on display with this throw by Rivers.
The deep ball is rarely something we saw last year from the Colts. This pass by Rivers is a beauty as he drops it in to Mike Williams for the touchdown against the Jaguars. The touch to drop this perfectly at the goal line for his receiver to make a play is something the Colts desperately needed.
This next deep ball is great because Rivers understands the field he has to work with. He knows he has single coverage to his best jump ball receiver, so he drops a high arching deep ball to the open part of the middle of the field. This allows Williams to easily run under the pass and make the catch in one-on-one traffic.
This last pass is a perfect example of Rivers' touch and precision. He effortlessly rolls out of the pocket and hits Hunter Henry on the seven route by dropping the ball right over the trailing defender’s head. Rivers has his flaws, but the upgrades he brings in terms of his touch, accuracy, anticipation, and trust in his receivers cannot be ignored.
While Rivers is far from a perfect passer at this point in his career, it really is hard to be upset with this move by the Colts. They upgraded their quarterback situation for the near future, and are now giving the team a better chance to win in the upcoming season.
Rivers is not the answer to life after Andrew Luck by any means, but he is a better "bridge" quarterback than Brissett. The biggest concerns with Brissett in 2019 were that he held onto the ball too often and simply wouldn’t throw the ball unless a receiver was wide open. With Rivers, the Colts get the opposite of that as he can anticipate throws and play aggressively.
Obviously, there are concerns with Rivers, and this article only touches on a small portion of his overall game. The main point is, the Colts have a veteran quarterback with familiarity in their scheme who is not afraid to get the ball out of his hands and give his receivers an opportunity to make plays. That is all you can really ask for out of a bridge quarterback and that is why Rivers is a clear upgrade for this team.