The Indianapolis Colts have fallen to 0-2 to start the season, losing 27-24 to the Los Angeles Rams. While there were more positives in this game than in the week one loss, the Colts still didn't get enough from key players to put this game away.
One player that did step up and have a big game, though, was wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. The second-year receiver hauled in eight receptions for 123 yards, both numbers being career-highs.
So rather than focusing on the negatives in this recent loss, I decided to dive into how Pittman Jr played and talk about whether the young receiver can establish himself as the true number one option going forward.
While it wasn't an elite game for Pittman Jr by any means, he performed well in his role as the zone-beater for the Colts in this match-up. He primarily found success as an underneath receiver finding holes in the Rams' defense, but he did have a few explosive plays down the field as well.
The Rams were more than content to sit in their cover-two/cover-three variations for most of the game as they allowed their pass rush, basically Aaron Donald, to feast. Pittman Jr was able to thrive on these quick curl-flat combos as a result. He didn't do anything particularly unique or elite on these routes, but he did a good job at finding space in the zone and turning up-field to gain extra yardage on these quick hitters.
Even though these routes were short, easy completions, Pittman Jr was able to haul them in consistently when in traffic. Receivers in the NFL have to be able to win over the middle to find consistency in the league, especially players with the size of Pittman Jr.
In the redzone early in the game, he takes a pretty good hit as he wins on a quick hitch. He does a nice job of holding onto the ball, and he nearly finishes through the hit for the score. He certainly needs to continue to win in this area of the field to have a consistent role in the offense.
Chunk Plays Down the Field
One of the more surprising developments of Pittman Jr's rookie season was how he was used. He flashed as a deep threat in college, but had the lowest average depth of target among Colts' receivers a year ago.
On Sunday however, Pittman Jr had some chances deep, and he was able to convert. The first one was on a broken play. Pittman Jr is blanketed by two defenders on the deep over route, but Carson Wentz takes a chance as the pressure closes in. Pittman Jr tracks down the under-thrown ball for a huge gain early in the game.
The second downfield reception was a beautiful example of a well-timed shot play along with great execution by the offense. It is a schemed shot play with two down field options for Wentz to read.
His first read is Zach Pascal on the deep post. Wentz does a great job of looking off the safety by initially staring down Pascal. When he comes back to Pittman Jr, who is running a "C" route in between the corner and safety, the safety is far out of position. Pittman Jr hauls in the deep reception for a chunk play down the sideline.
Michael Pittman Jr is a young wide receiver that Colts' fans should be excited about. He has an excellent blend of size and speed, and he has shown to be productive in limited roles with the Colts.
The main question after this performance is if he is ready to become the full-fledged number one option for the team. I want to say yes, but I think we have to see a bit more from him against man coverage first. While he has shown that he can be productive, he needs to show that he can be the type of player who can beat his man and make a big catch down the stretch to be a true number one guy.
Pittman Jr is a good receiver prospect in this Colts' offense. Sunday was a huge game for him to put together early in his sophomore campaign. If he can continue to build upon this performance, he certainly has the ability to be the team's future number one target.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.