With the signing of Philip Rivers, the Colts took a big step toward improving their offensive attack over what they had last season with Jacoby Brissett under center. Zach Hicks has already broken down what Rivers brings to the Colts offense, but what I wanted to focus on was the major question many Colts fans will rightly have after a season where Rivers threw 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
Like Chris Ballard said during the combine when talking about Jordan Love, you take each interception individually. So that’s what we are doing today. We will look at each pick Rivers threw in the 2019 season and see what they tell us about him. Let’s dig in.
The first pick we see is one that’s already familiar to most Colts fans. Rivers tosses a pick to Malik Hooker in the end zone.
It wasn’t a particularly bad throw as much as a really great athletic play by Hooker. However, you’re going to see similar throws like this as we go on that illustrate a struggle Rivers has with trying to squeeze balls into closing windows. This is an area where he simply lacks the arm and zip to do this at times.
This next pick was an ill-advised throw to Keenan Allen.
Allen is completely bracketed with Darius Slay right in his hip pocket. There is really no reason to make this throw, and he has the tight end releasing over the middle that would have gone for a modest gain if he checks it down. Unfortunately, Rivers tends to put the ball up for Allen to make a play, and the result is a pick right in the end zone.
On this pick we see Rivers make an errant throw that is impacted by pressure.
The Broncos pass rush is closing in, and Rivers simply doesn’t step into his throw as he hurries to get rid of the ball. He sails his throw as a result, and it goes off Allen’s hands and into the waiting arms of the safety.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Rivers’ turnovers is where many of them take place.
Red zone turnovers are killers, and it happened a lot for him in 2019. Here he simply doesn’t see the defender peel back toward his read. As soon as he snaps his eyes back to his second read, the defender is on it and it is an easy pick.
This play is the direct result of pressure in his face.
The defensive line pushes the pocket and gets a hand in the throwing lane. The ball pops up, and there is Devin Bush to make the pick.
This is another example of pressure forcing a bad throw.
With 55 seconds left in the game and from in their own end zone, Rivers has to get the ball out quickly. The pass rush is on him and he just lets it go. Rivers, like Luck did, tends to make inadvisable plays when the team really needs something big. While that will likely lead to some incredible plays in 2020, it will probably lead to some like this also.
Here is another throw that is rushed because a stunting defensive lineman gets a free run at Rivers.
This is hopefully one cause of turnovers that the Colts will be in a much better position to minimize than were the Chargers.
Here is another example of the ball sailing on Rivers because he gets pressure and doesn’t step into his throw.
He needs to do better, but as I said before, the Colts will be able to keep a much cleaner pocket for him than he had last season.
If these picks are starting to look like a trend to you, you wouldn’t be wrong.
This is another red zone pick where Rivers simply doesn’t see the coverage help rolling to the ball. The good news here is that Frank Reich proved that with a guy who can work through their progressions, he can set them up with easy red zone targets. We watched Eric Ebron run free to the end zone all the time in 2018, and there is no reason to think Reich can’t do the same with a QB who is willing to pull the trigger and able to work through his reads quickly.
Here Rivers is hit as he throws, but it isn’t clear what he was trying to do anyway.
The nearest target is Hunter Henry, who was on the ground. It could be that he was trying to get the ball to Allen but the hit caused the ball to go way off target. Either way, this was not pretty.
Another play, another QB hit that results in a pick for Philip Rivers.
Frank Clark beats his man pretty easily and gets a hit on Rivers as he is throwing the ball, knocking it right into the hands of Derrick Nnadi.
On this play, Rivers is looking for Keenan Allen over the middle.
The problem is that he stares him down and Tyrann Matthieu immediately keys on it. It seems as though there are some times where Rivers just tried to force the ball in to Allen even when it didn’t really make sense to do so.
On this play Rivers was feeling himself just a bit too much.
He lets the ball go a bit too late and doesn’t have the arm to get it as far as he needs to. It travels 50 yards downfield but his receiver has to pull up for it and that allows the defense to close in and make a play.
This pick is just a bad throw.
He has Ekeler on the outside and throws him a jump ball in the end zone rather than putting the ball on the outside shoulder where it is either a touchdown or an incompletion. Asking your running back to go up for a 50/50 ball is not a good idea.
This is another just plain bad throw.
Rivers tries to dump the ball off to the running back but throws across his body without setting his feet. He doesn’t loft the ball over the line, he throws it directly to the defensive lineman. Ugly.
We have seen a couple throws like this one, but this is another example of Rivers trying to squeeze a ball into a tight window that he just might not have the zip to hit consistently anymore.
The pocket is collapsing around him and he lets this one rip. He does put the ball on the money, but it doesn’t get there before the safety is able to come over and make the play.
Here Rivers has Mike Williams who beats his man to the outside.
The ball needs to be on his outside shoulder to be away from the safety help, but Rivers shorts it and the defender has an easy pick.
As with several of the plays we’ve seen before, Rivers tries a deep throw that has to get there ahead of defenders who are closing in.
He’s got a tight window to throw into and this pass is about 45 yards through the air. Based on what I have seen, Rivers just doesn’t have the velocity on his passes to take these kinds of shots anymore.
On this play Rivers actually makes the right read, but the throw is off.
Instead of putting the ball on Mike Williams’ outside shoulder, he puts it inside and Williams gets turned around trying to track it. If he makes a bit better throw this is a touchdown instead of a pick.
This play is a garbage time interception where Rivers is trying to save face by getting a score to bring the game closer.
They’re trailing by two scores with no timeouts and around a minute left to play. He makes a bad throw that is way behind where it needs to be, but in the scheme of the game, mattered very little.
There are some issues that clearly stick out with Rivers’ game that led to so many picks in 2019. His downfield accuracy is not great at this point in his career, and so taking shots of 40+ yards is unlikely to be highly successful unless his targets are pretty open. Along with that, he lacked velocity to get the ball into tight windows, but mistakenly trusted his arm to do so anyway. Additionally, he made some poor decisions and errant throws that were costly, and more of them than you’d like occurred in the red zone.
However, many of his poor throws were the direct result of pressure from opposing defenses. His pass protection will be far better than it was in Los Angeles, and he will have a much more creative mind directing the offense with Frank Reich. The give and take with Rivers is that he is a guy who will take some chances and trust his arm to get the job done. There are likely to be times in 2020 when that leaves Colts holding their breath. Rivers is likely to give the team some amazing moments, and some truly disappointing ones. Hopefully Reich and the offensive staff can minimize the negatives and get a season like Rivers had in 2018 out of him.