The 2019 season was not quite the year we expected from Colts’ star wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Typically a player who plays through almost any injury and is always on the field, Hilton missed six games which played a role in his low statistical output. Still, he finished second on the team in receiving yards, targets, and tied for first in receiving touchdowns.
In a new film room series, we will be looking back on the 2019 season to see which routes each of the top passing targets had the most success on. I went back through all 67 of Hilton’s targets and charted each route. Here are the three routes he found the most success on, and the two routes that he was the least efficient on in 2019.
Most Efficient Routes
1.) Short Curl or Hitch Route (1-7 air yards)
The most successful route for Hilton in 2019 was the quick curl or hitch route. This play was mostly successful due to opposing corners respecting the elite speed that Hilton has. He was targeted 11 times on these routes as he caught nine of those passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. Colts’ quarterbacks had a passer rating of 130.3 when targeting Hilton on this route. Here is a great example of the space he gets off the line due to his speed and then turning it into a huge gain on the play.
2.) Screen Play
Hilton was targeted a ton on screen plays this past season. He was targeted 11 times as he caught all 11 of those passes for 69 yards and touchdown on the season. Colts quarterbacks had a passer rating of 123.1 when targeted on this route. Hilton was great at creating after the catch as he had almost seven yards per reception on this route despite having an average depth of target of two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Here is Hilton scoring against Houston on a quick screen in week seven.
3.) Drag Route
Hilton was great at creating after the catch on drag routes in 2019. He was targeted eight times and he caught four of those passes for 62 yards and touchdown on the season. Colts’ quarterbacks had a passer rating of 115.6 when targeting him on this route. Hilton likely would have had more success on this route but quarterback Jacoby Brissett had his fair share of bad misses when looking his way here. Here is a great play by Hilton creating after the catch for the game tying touchdown against the Chargers in week one.
Least Efficient Routes
1.) Streak or Go Route
Similarl to Zach Pascal’s charting from last season, Hilton really struggled on vertical routes in 2019. He was targeted eight times on the year and he hauled in just one of those for 26 yards. He also recorded two drops on these vertical routes on the year. Colts quarterbacks had a passer rating of 1.0 when targeting Hilton on this route. Hilton definitely deserves some blame for this low efficiency but I think the major reason was his lack of chemistry with Jacoby Brissett and just how inefficient Brissett was on these vertical passes last year. Here is a bad miss by Brissett with Hilton wide open on the deep route.
2.) Intermediate Out Route (8-15 air yards)
This was the only other notably poor route to chart worth mentioning. Hilton was only targeted twice on this route last year but he recorded one drop and the other target was intercepted. Colts quarterbacks had a passer rating of 0.0 when targeted on this route on the season. Here is the interception that Brissett threw against the Titans when targeting Hilton on this route in week two.
Last year was tough to watch as someone who has been a fan of T.Y. Hilton’s since his days at Florida International. One of the best deep threats in the NFL with a yards per catch average of 15.6 was limited to just 11.1 last year. A player who typically has played every Sunday no matter what was limited to just 10 games. It was a frustrating year all around.
There are obviously two major reasons why this decline in efficiency and statistical output happened in 2019. One was Hilton’s injuries on the year. He just couldn’t stay healthy after the first four games and his willingness to push himself to the limit and try to come back early from injuries led to more games missed. It was just a disaster in this regard.
The other obvious issue was his lack of chemistry with Brissett and Brissett’s own struggles as a passer. They couldn’t connect at all down field and it was obviously frustrating for a receiver of Hilton’s caliber. I’m not completely blaming Brissett for Hilton’s struggles last year but when you continually watch throws like this.. it is frustrating for everyone.
*Deep Sigh* The 2019 Colts everybody... pic.twitter.com/G6NZfCfkWm— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) June 4, 2020
So yeah it was tough seeing Hilton limited to being an underneath receiver in 2019. The bright side though is I think he bounces back next season. Philip Rivers should be an upgrade in terms of accuracy and aggressiveness attacking down the field. We have seen in Hilton’s career that as long as the quarterback gives him a chance down the field, he can make special things happen.
Overall 2019 was a year to forget for Hilton (and all of us) but I do think he still has a few more good years left. He is still a great deep threat, excellent at attacking defender’s blind spots, and can make plays after the catch. With a revamped passing attack in 2020, he should be able to cash in on more opportunities this upcoming season (if he can stay healthy).