The Indianapolis Colts went into the 2022 season knowing they were going to need improve their pass-catching weapons.
They addressed that need in the draft by taking wide receiver Alec Pierce in the second round and tight end Jelani Woods in the third round.
Rookies, especially pass catchers, can take some time to acclimate to the NFL, but head coach Frank Reich and the Colts got a glimpse in Sunday's win over the Kansas City Chiefs of the impact Pierce and Woods can have.
Woods had his first two catches of the season on Sunday, both touchdowns including the game winner.
Pierce also had his first catches of the season including a contested 30-yard catch that got the Colts out from under the shadow of their own goalpost.
Reich said the emergence of Woods and Pierce was a glimpse of the future, but he still cautioned patience with the rookies.
“It’s a big thing," said Reich on Monday. "These are rookie players, young players and then obviously Alec (Pierce) was hurt there for a week. It just builds confidence."
"When we drafted both of these guys, we felt like these guys could have an immediate impact. We felt like these two players could be impact players. Not just make an impact, but make big plays. They both have big-play capability. That’s what we’re looking for on offense, is big-play capability."
"They both show that, but they’re rookies. We’ve got to be patient. This takes time, things develop. It’s not as easy as saying they are both big-play players, let’s put them in and throw the ball to them – 10 targets in the first. It usually grows gradually. That’s what you see over the years."
"But really encouraged with what we’ve seen so far."
Reich has praised this group of receivers, including the rookies in the past, and his faith was rewarded by the rookies on Sunday.
“Yeah, it was," said Reich when asked if this is what he saw in the offseason. "That’s a small sample size. It’s one game, it’s a couple of catches but I do think that’s a sign of things they’re going to bring to this team over the course of the season, over the course of their careers."
"I think they’re both big-play players and we got a glimpse of that. It’s our challenge as an offense to continue to develop that, continue to give them opportunities to make those kinds of plays because we still like our other receivers, we still like our other tight ends, but we’ve got to continue to mix these guys in and give them opportunities to make plays."
The Colts look to build on Sunday's win over the Chiefs this week against the Tennessee Titans.
As Woods and Pierce continue to improve in this offense, it should free up the Colts other big-play makers including receiver Michael Pittman and running back Jonathan Taylor.
The Colts got off to a slow start the first-two weeks of the season, but Sunday was a sign that they can still be playoff contenders this year.