Colts rookie wide receiver Josh Downs is producing at a historic rate to begin his NFL career.
The 22-year old from the University of North Carolina has tallied 23 receptions through five career games, a Colt rookie record. He has totaled more catches than Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison (20) and way more than his wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne (11) at the same point in their careers.
Grabbing First Downs at a historic pace. pic.twitter.com/aCzMR2COhR— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 12, 2023
Downs is on pace to total 78 receptions this season, smashing the Colts rookie record of 65 set by Bill Brooks in 1986.
It’s, of course, a very small sample size at this point. Downs has a long way to go, but his potential is clearly on display.
And good thing, too, because with Anthony Richardson on injured reserve and Gardner Minshew officially in place as the Colts starting quarterback for the next month (and probably longer), the time is now for the Colts supporting cast to step up on offense.
In Minshew’s lone start this season at Baltimore, he looked Downs’ way often. Downs finished with season highs in both targets (12) and receptions (eight) in the overtime win over the Ravens.
“He’s doing a great job,” Minshew said via Colts.com. “He has good feel versus zone, winning against man, catches the ball in traffic – all of the things you can ask for. As a rookie, he’s really been dialed in on his assignment and doing a good job with that. Very excited for him, he just continues to seem to grow.”
Listed at 5-9, Downs has the look of a classic slot receiver, lining up alongside bigger outside targets in Michael Pittman (6-4) and Alec Pierce (6-3). His pure speed (4.48-second 40-yard dash) also makes him a deep threat.
Last week against the Titans, Downs rose up between two Tennessee defenders along the sideline for a 38-yard catch (season-long) to convert on a third-and-long situation. He finished the game with a season-high 97 yards on six grabs.
Head Coach Shane Steichen likes what he sees from the North Carolina product thus far.
“I think with any rookie that has success early, I think part of it is they have a natural feel on how to play the game,” Steichen said via Colts.com. “A lot of those guys that you see make big plays, they made them in college and then it translates sometimes to the NFL quickly, but again, I’ve said this before about him. He’s got a natural feel playing that position, catches everything, runs good routes. He’s explosive, and then obviously the quarterbacks, both Anthony (Richardson) and Gardner (Minshew), got a good feel for the way he runs his routes and just find completions going to him.”
In his NFL debut, the Jaguars held Downs to just three receptions for 30 yards. Now with five full NFL games under his belt, look for the rookie speedster to have more success tomorrow in the Jacksonville rematch. Maybe we’ll even see No. 1 find the end zone for the first time in his career...