The Indianapolis Colts threw the ball 511 times last season and that number could go up with a better quarterback in Philip Rivers under center in 2020. While T.Y. Hilton will be the number one receiver, barring injury, the Colts have a lot of options for who could see the second most targets on the team.
In today’s piece, we will be looking at the five players who have a chance to be second on the team in targets in 2020 for the Colts and talk about who could break out among this young, intriguing receiver group.
1.) Parris Campbell, WR
The first player on this list is a bit of a hot take but if he can stay healthy in year two, I think Campbell has a big chance to break out for this team. Campbell’s rookie season was marred with inconsistencies and injury but there were some promising signs overall in his game.
Despite playing just seven games, Campbell was targeted once out of every eight snaps he played which was second only to T.Y. Hilton who was targeted once every seven snaps. Campbell also led the receiver group in avoided tackles after reception with five on the year, had the highest yards after catch among the receiver group, and had a passer rating of 104 when targeted (all stats according to PFF).
Another reason to believe that Campbell could be in for a big year is the change at quarterback. Last year, Jacoby Brissett really struggled with distributing the ball and letting his playmakers go to work in space. Rivers is much better in this area as he is in the stage of his career where he can’t rely just on his arm talent and has to take those simple throws in space and let his receivers make plays. Obviously Campbell has some work to do to clean up some mistakes as a rookie but I think he could be in for a big year in 2020 if he stays healthy.
The coaching staff correctly took it slow with him during his rookie season and I think they are ready to unleash him in year two. A small glimpse of what we could see with Campbell is what he did in week nine last year against the Steelers where he had eight touches for 80 yards and the coaching staff went out of their way to get him in space all game long. Overall, I’m fully on board with Campbell taking the next step with Rivers at the helm in 2020.
Reich’s Colts and Whisenhunt’s Chargers share a lot of similarities (obviously since they coached together). I looked at Tyrell Williams in 2016 though to see how the Colts could use Parris Campbell in 2020. Here is a quick video analysis on getting Campbell into space in 2020: pic.twitter.com/UXOS3TGnxB— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) July 7, 2020
2.) Jack Doyle, TE
Mr. Reliable Jack Doyle comes in at number two here and this is mostly out of sheer playing time that he will get. While the Colts did add another tight end in Trey Burton this offseason, Doyle is just too vital to this offense to come off the field in most situations. He is one of the team’s best blockers and is used in so many roles as the sniffer back, half back, fullback, and as the traditional tight end. His blocking proficiency leads to more snaps and more opportunities in the pass game by default.
That isn’t to say Doyle isn’t a talented receiving tight end in his own right either. Last year, he finished tied for the team lead in targets and was second in first down receptions with 28. He also only had two drops on the year, thus again proving how reliable he is for this team. There’s nothing flashy about his game but I think his reliability will mesh well with the style of Philip Rivers and he will once again prove to be an underrated asset in the passing game.
This is what happens when a rookie linebacker tries to cover a Pro Bowl Tight End in man coverage.— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) June 23, 2020
Jack Doyle is such a good football player. pic.twitter.com/bh249EeMGi
3.) Michael Pittman Jr, WR
I went back and forth multiple times on this choice but finally ended up going with the rookie at this spot. The Colts traditionally like to work their rookie receivers in slow, see Parris Campbell last year, and that process could even be longer this year with the effects of Covid-19. Ultimately though, I think Philip Rivers and this talented rookie mesh much too well for him not to be up there and targets this upcoming season.
Rivers loves his big body receivers and that has been a trend in his game all the way back to early in his career. From Vincent Jackson to Malcolm Floyd to Mike Williams, Rivers loves throwing the ball up to those acrobatic, strong receivers on the outside. Pittman Jr fits that exact mold perfectly and has even drawn comparisons to each of those aforementioned players. To reiterate though, I do think Pittman Jr sees less snaps early in the year but ultimately I think his chemistry with Rivers will grow and as the year goes on, we will see quite a few targets go this talented rookies’ way.
Philip Rivers' favorite route to throw last season was the slot fade to Mike Williams...— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) April 24, 2020
With Michael Pittman Jr, the Colts have their own version of that connection. Love the fit and Pittman Jr is a baller: pic.twitter.com/FCaC5rwTpS
4.) Nyheim Hines, RB
One of my favorite players on the team comes in at four on this list. Hines hasn’t exactly been what the Colts’ hoped for when drafting him in 2018 but he has been solid as the team’s third down back nonetheless. Last year, he finished second on the team with receptions with 44 and had the most yards after catch among all players on the team with 7.1.
With Rivers at quarterback in 2020, we could see more work for Hines in the passing game as traditionally, like Rivers love of big receivers, he seems to mesh well with the receiving scat back types. We could very well see Hines take on a similar type of role with the Colts that Austin Ekeler had with the Chargers last season with all his designed touches in the passing game. Even with the addition of Jonathan Taylor, expect Hines’ role as the team’s third down back to remain unchanged and for him to have an impact in the passing game again in 2020.
All I want is for the Colts to deploy Nyheim Hines more in space. One way they have somewhat done this the last two years is having him split out in five wide looks. Here are some of my favorites catches/RAC from Hines out as a receiver in five wide: pic.twitter.com/gvNwcGK1yD— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) July 14, 2020
5.) Zach Pascal, WR
Last but certainly not least is the Colts’ leading receiver from a year ago in Zach Pascal. The former UDFA special teams ace made a huge leap last season and led the team in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, targets, first down catches, and only had two drops on the year. He was super reliable and dependable in an offense that for the most part wasn’t in 2019.
Going into 2020 though, there is just more competition for targets. Pascal is the type of player who will do the dirty work and is perfectly fine with going games without seeing targets as long as the team is winning. I do think he starts off the season as the starting ‘X’ receiver as the team slowly works in Michael Pittman Jr but I see him fading out a tad and settling in as the team’s dependable wide receiver four down the stretch. Don’t underestimate Pascal’s impact though as he is very much the Jack Doyle of the receiver group and could get much more snaps than anticipated due to that fact in 2020.
Zach Pascal vs Pitt last year was outstanding (5 rec for 76 yds and TD)— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) June 12, 2020
~Clip 1: Attacks the blindspot on the out for a huge gain
~Clip 2: Excellent extension on the post for the touchdown
~Clip 3: Beautiful toe tap on the deep C route
~Clip 4: Acrobatic backshoulder catch pic.twitter.com/fxx6U2filc