“I expect a great bounce back from a year where he had a lot of injuries,” Sirianni said on Monday. “I expect the 2018 version of him and again, (to) stay healthy through the year.”
“If T.Y. stays healthy through the year, there’s no doubt in my mind that’s what we’ll see because he’s highly competitive, he’s highly intelligent, and he’s going to take advantage of his opportunities.”
In 2018, with better health and former franchise quarterback Andrew Luck behind center, Hilton caught 76 receptions for 1,270 receiving yards (16.7 ypr. avg.) and 6 touchdown receptions in 14 starts. He also had six 40+ yard receptions on the season.
Meanwhile, having dealt with a number of injuries (including a calf) and underwhelming starting quarterback play down the stretch, Hilton caught just 45 receptions for 501 receiving yards (11.1 ypr. avg.) and 5 touchdown receptions in 10 starts this past season. He had zero 40+ yard receptions in 2019.
While the Colts have invested consecutive 2nd round picks in younger wide receivers now through the draft, Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr., Hilton is still projected to be the “straw that stirs the drink” as it relates to Indianapolis’ overall passing attack:
“He’s still the main piece of this offense,” Sirianni added. “T.Y. Hilton is who this pass offense runs through. Things will be schemed to get him the football. I know he’s worked hard on his body and worked hard through the offseason. He’s our guy. He’s our lead dog. He’s our alpha dog. And if he stays healthy, the sky’s the limit again for him.”
Additional reliable receiving options should only help free up some of the double coverage that Hilton routinely sees—having historically not had enough receiving help surrounding him.
Despite the looming possibility of limited physical offseason reps with his new starting quarterback Philip Rivers, both stars are accomplished veterans—who’ve played in this game for a long time and should build chemistry with one another very quickly.
Sirianni cited to Chargers Pro Bowl wideout Keenan Allen’s rookie season with Rivers in 2013, when Allen didn’t start the team’s first two games but because of injury, was thrust into the starting lineup and then caught 71 receptions for 1,046 receiving yards (14.7 ypr. avg.) and 8 touchdown receptions in 14 starts (15 games).
While at 5’10”, 183 pounds, Hilton doesn’t fit the mold of Allen (6’2”, 211 pounds) or even some of the bigger prototypical wideouts that Rivers has loved throwing to with the Chargers: Vincent Jackson (6’5”, 230 pounds), Malcom Floyd (6’5”, 225 pounds), and most recently, Mike Williams (6’4”, 220 pounds), the Colts Pro Bowler runs great routes, can clearly separate, and remains one of the game’s best deep threats—if fully healthy.
Rivers is a veteran quarterback who will throw it to any open receiver. Even better for Hilton, the wily gunslinger’s shown an inclination to throw the ball downfield and take chances.
For perspective, Rivers’ 7.03 net yards per pass attempt ranked 11th most last season, whereas former starter Jacoby Brissett’s 5.87 ny/a ranked 24th overall.
Although Hilton isn’t the big bodied possession target that fans typically associate with Rivers, he does compare well to former Chargers’ speedsters Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin—both of whom fared very favorably with Rivers in the past:
“I think about in 2016 or 2017, I think it was 2016, we had Travis Benjamin and we had Tyrell Williams, and they were #1 and #2 in the NFL I believe in +40 yard gains,” Sirianni recalled.
“Why do I bring that up... they had speed. They had flat out speed. T.Y. Hilton has flat out speed, and so, that makes me really excited. I can just picture some of these plays. I can picture this post that Travis ran against Cleveland, Game 1, against Cover 4 (coverage), and Philip dropped it right in there to him for a 70 yard gain to start the game.”
“I can just envision T.Y. doing that. And I think about Tyrell running this over route, plays that are within our offense, and Philip putting it right on the money, and Tyrell being able to run with it. I’m just super excited to see these parallels that Philip has had with other players that will really fit some of these things that T.Y. can do.”
With his great deep speed, nuanced route running, and separation, Hilton has a tremendous opportunity in 2020 for a strong season when paired with Rivers—who should provide him with plenty of chances to make big plays down the field. Something that was sorely lacking for Hilton last season.
Simply put, health permitting, Hilton should be poised for a bounce back season next year.