The Indianapolis Colts had a clear plan on offense this offseason, and their leadership—namely general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich, just proved it.
1. Colts Signed Veteran Gunslinger Philip Rivers
Now, the 8x Pro Bowler is no longer an elite quarterback in the NFL anymore at 38 years old, but that doesn’t mean the 17-year veteran can’t be an average to pretty good starting quarterback for the Colts next season—surrounded by a strong supporting cast.
Rivers should be an upgrade over last year’s starter Jacoby Brissett, with his accuracy, willingness to push the ball downfield, and generate big plays. While there will assuredly be more turnovers from Rivers than Brissett, the Colts offense will presumably score more points and better consistently move the sticks.
The longtime Chargers quarterback reunites with his former offensive coordinator for the Bolts, Frank Reich, who already has a great familiarity with the fiery field general from their time together on the west coast.
Helping matters is that Rivers should already have a leg up on understanding at least some of Reich’s offensive playcalls and the Colts greater offensive scheme—which could really pay dividends in an offseason where team activities could very well be shortened by the ongoing pandemic.
2. Colts Signed Veteran Trey Burton as Their TE2
One could argue that this move was more out of necessity, as the Colts let Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron depart in free agency—and had a big need for another receiving tight end.
That’s probably true.
That being said, Burton also fits as a receiver group that Rivers loves throwing to: his tight ends. Rivers formed one of the greatest quarterback to tight end combinations in NFL history with future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates in San Diego.
He continued showing how much he loves throwing to his tight ends in more recent seasons by building exceptional chemistry with Chargers tight end Hunter Henry.
Also reuniting with Reich (from their tenure together with the Philadelphia Eagles), Burton is another strong rebound candidate for the Colts—assuming he is fully healthy. He should be frequently deployed in Reich’s offense which prominently features two tight ends.
3. Colts Drafted Big Bodied Wideouts for Rivers
The Colts took one of the best big bodied wideouts in the entire draft class, USC’s Michael Pittman Jr., with the 34th overall pick.
The 6’4”, 223 pound wideout should be a bonafide vertical downfield threat with his ability to highpoint the football and consistently win 50-50 jumpballs. Pittman is incredibly polished for his young age, and he should be an immediate contributor for the Colts.
However, Pittman wasn’t the Colts sole big bodied wideout addition, as the Colts took advantage of what was a deep wide receiver class and selected Washington State wide receiver Dezmon Patmon in the 6th round.
Like Pittman Jr., Patmon is around 6’4”, 220 pounds and should provide another taller target downfield for Rivers—who can be utilized situationally and in the red zone.
Rivers has historically loved throwing to bigger wideouts, whether it’s been Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd, or most recently, Mike Williams.
4. Colts Drafted Another Workhorse at Running Back
The Colts were always planning on heavily emphasizing a power running game in 2020— anchored by one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, no matter who was starting at QB.
That being said, the franchise may have very well just upped the ante.
Despite already having one of the NFL’s better bellcows, Marlon Mack (who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season), the Colts took one of the draft’s best running backs, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for over 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons for the Badgers, is a dynamic athlete, and can be a 3-down, all-purpose franchise back.
With Rivers being 38 years old, the Colts know full well that he’s not going to be able to air it out and help carry an offense as much as he used to (although having LaDainian Tomlinson certainly helped back in San Diego).
By drafting another workhorse, the Colts are providing Rivers a hard-hitting ‘1-2 punch’ in the backfield with Mack and Taylor that he and the offense can heavily lean upon.
Not only will the running game be the Colts ‘bread and butter’ on offense, but it should help Rivers in play-action situations and by forcing opposing secondaries to commit extra defenders into the box—freeing up the overall passing attack downfield.
Now, whether the Colts’ offensive plan this offseason works out remains to be seen.
The Colts will need Rivers to play like a Top 15 starting quarterback in the NFL again, and they’ll need rookies like Pittman Jr. and Taylor to make an immediate, high level impact among other variables in 2020.
That being said, it’s fairly certain that Ballard and Reich had a clear plan and vision entering this offseason. Once the Colts signed Rivers, the rest of the dominos quickly fell into place.
That doesn’t mean it will work out in the end—especially with having serious Super Bowl aspirations for next season. However, in offseasons where other general managers sometimes stockpile talent without understanding how they actually jive together, the Colts offensive approach has been both calculated and refreshing as of late—if nothing else.
The pieces fit and it all makes logical sense, now time will tell whether their plan pays off.