According to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, new Indianapolis Colts veteran starter Philip Rivers is among the top quarterbacks who have changed teams this offseason:
2. Philip Rivers
Indianapolis Colts · QB
After a 5-11 season in which Rivers threw almost as many interceptions (20) as he did touchdowns (23), it was clear both the quarterback and the Chargers organization could use a fresh start. The veteran found an ideal home with the Colts, whose head coach (Frank Reich) and offensive coordinator (Nick Sirianni) both know Rivers well from their time together with the Chargers. There are two reasons I love this signing so much: 1) Rivers will get to play behind a veteran offensive line featuring the NFL’s best left guard (Quenton Nelson), and 2) Reich doesn’t want or expect the 38-year-old to carry the offense on his own, with the team planning to emphasize a running game spearheaded by Marlon Mack and rookie Jonathan Taylor. If the defense shows improvement after a second-half dropoff in 2019, this Indianapolis team could become a real threat in the AFC with Rivers at the helm.
The veteran gunslinger will get the opportunity to throw behind a much better offensive line in Indianapolis than the one that struggled in pass protection last season with the Bolts.
The Colts also figure to showcase a power running game that features last year’s 1,000 yard rusher Marlon Mack and dynamic rookie workhorse Jonathan Taylor—as the ‘bread and butter’ of their offensive game plan.
That means that Rivers won’t be called upon to single-handedly carry the offensive workload through the passing game—like he once did in his prime in San Diego—as the Colts will have a much more balanced offensive attack.
By emphasizing the ground game behind their dominant offensive line, the Colts should have ample play-action opportunities for Rivers in the passing game, and he should be able to take calculated shots downfield—as opposing defenses may have to commit extra defenders into the box to help stop the run.
This should only free up the Colts’ passing game deep—which has the likes of deep threat T.Y. Hilton, big bodied rookie Michael Pittman Jr., and blazing fast slot wideout Parris Campbell. Not to mention, Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle should help Rivers over the middle with his sure hands and consistent production.
Even though Rivers statistically had a ‘down season’ for his normally high standards this past season—throwing just 23 touchdowns to 20 interceptions in 2019, Sirianni didn’t notice a drop-off in his actual play.
Rather, Rivers was forced to play from behind with the Chargers—which led to forcing throws and subsequently, more turnovers downfield. After all, he’s just a season removed from passing for 32 touchdowns to 12 interceptions with the Bolts in 2018.
With a more balanced offensive attack and a much improved Colts defense (as All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner’s addition should really help Indianapolis), the hope is that will no longer be the case in Indianapolis—as the Colts will generally have leads to protect this upcoming season.
For what it’s worth, when looking at Rivers’ numbers—even from last season, it’s hard not to envision that he’ll be a starting upgrade from last year’s Colts risk adverse starter Jacoby Brissett:
- Passing yards- 4,615 (4th most)
- Passer rating- 88.5 (17th best)
- Net yards per passing attempt- 7.03 (11th most)
- Yards per pass completion- 11.8 (10th most)
- Pass completion %- 66.0% (10th highest)
Rivers isn’t afraid to challenge opposing secondaries downfield, and he’ll whip the football to all levels of the field—with exceptional anticipation skills. He should have improved accuracy over Brissett, and he should be able to better move the sticks and create bigger play opportunities offensively for the Colts—with his willingness to take chances.
While in turn that could lead to more turnovers for the Colts offense, it’ll also lead to ultimately more big plays—which means scoring more points—and yes, the team that scores the most points wins.
The 38 year old Rivers realistically isn’t what he once was in his prime—with some diminished arm strength, but he still can be a very good starting quarterback for the Colts—and it appears that he’s set up in a support system to have a lot of success in 2020.