Hall of Fame wide receiver talent has not been foreign to the Indianapolis Colts.
From the acrobatic catches of Marvin Harrison to the clutch hands of Reggie Wayne, the Colts are used to All-Pro receivers making huge plays and helping out their quarterback.
The Colts are one of a handful of franchises to have two wide receivers with over 10,000 yards receiving for that team in Harrison and Wayne and could be the first NFL franchise to have three receivers reach that mark later this year with T.Y. Hilton.
Behind Hilton however, there are quite a few young wideouts that look to make their mark for this team and take the next step in their careers. So, let’s take a look at the primary weapons new quarterback Carson Wentz will be throwing to this year.
Since Andrew Luck retired before the 2019 season, Hilton has not seen the type of production we have become so accustomed to seeing from the four-time Pro Bowler. The styles of Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers did not necessarily line up with the strengths of Hilton’s game.
Now 31 years old, Hilton has a chance to bounce back in a big way with a new quarterback that is much similar in play style to Luck. Wentz and Hilton are excited to play with one another, with Wentz even texting with Hilton during the wide receiver’s free agency period to recruit him back with the Colts. Wentz’s ability to throw the deep ball well is something Hilton welcomes.
“It was on the money. He has a big arm,” Hilton said when asked about his throwing session with Wentz. “He likes to throw it, so it’s exciting and fun. It’s going to be special.”
The drop in production for Hilton does not necessarily mean he can no longer get the job done.
When looking at the film last year, there were many times where Hilton was being double-teamed and thus drawing attention away from his teammates to allow them to make plays. Other times he would be open down the field and Rivers would go with a different option.
Hilton may not be the burner that he once used to be, but he is still one of the best route runners in the league and has to be accounted for on every single play. With a quarterback like Wentz who throws a great deep ball and can extend plays with his legs, expect Hilton’s numbers to rise from the past couple of seasons as he is made a more vocal part of the offense.
Michael Pittman Jr.
After a slow start to the season, and suffering from compartment leg syndrome, Michael Pittman Jr began to show why the Colts were so high on him when they drafted him in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft.
Pittman Jr. is a big-bodied wide receiver with great hands and showed a knack for racking up huge yards after the catch. He had one of his best games to end the year, catching five passes for 90 yards in the Colts’ loss to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC wild-card round. It showed a glimpse of just how big of a weapon he could be for this team.
For Pittman Jr., his second season is all about taking that next step. While most of his production came on slants and crossing routes last year, he will certainly look to expand on that and work on getting more involved in different situations this year.
As an “X” outside receiver, look for Pittman Jr. to also benefit from Carson Wentz’s style of play. This will give him more chances to catch deep balls and use his 6’4” frame as a target in the red zone.
The Colts are very excited about what Pittman Jr. can become for this offense. Under the tutelage of Hilton, Pittman could be next in line to take over as WR1 for the Colts.
The main theme of Parris Campbell’s first two years in the NFL can be summed up pretty easily: bad luck.
After not being injured throughout high school and college, the injury bug has hit Campbell hard in the NFL. He has suffered five injuries in his two years in the league, including a sprained MCL and PCL in his left knee Week Two last year that kept him out the rest of the season. Campbell has only played in nine of a possible 32 games in his NFL career.
The Colts are still very high on Campbell and believe he can become a vital part of this offense. Head coach Frank Reich pushed heavily for the Colts to draft Campbell in 2019 and has plans to turn him into a mismatch for opposing defenses. The question is whether or not he will be able to stay on the field to prove it.
“Obviously, it’s been things that are out of my control,” Campbell said. “Some of these injuries have just been freak injuries. But it’s definitely been frustrating, but I’m also motivated for what’s ahead.”
Changing his jersey number to #1, Campbell is looking for a fresh start this year. If he can stay healthy, Campbell could fit into the role that Nelson Agholor had in the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense when Reich and Wentz were last together in 2017. But once again, it will all depend on if the third-year wide receiver can stay on the field.
Zach Pascal has been arguably the most consistent wide receiver for the Colts over the past few seasons. Coaches rave about Pascal’s willingness to do whatever is asked of him. Whether he needs to make a play downfield or seal a block on the outside, he gives it his all on every play.
Pascal has been the unofficial WR2 over the last few years due to injuries, yet he has proven to be a dependable option and can make plays at all levels. While he sometimes can be forgotten, that is when Pascal can make defenses pay.
Even if Pittman Jr. and Campbell end up taking on bigger roles this year, expect Pascal to get plenty of run. A player that is willing to do whatever it takes to win and can be counted on whenever his number is called will always find his way on the field.
Best of the Rest
The Colts normally carry six wide receivers on the roster throughout the season. After Hilton, Pittman Jr., Campbell, and Pascal, that leaves two open spots. The consensus is that three players will fight for those final two spots: Dezmon Patmon, Ashton Dulin, and Michael Strachan.
Patmon was kept on the roster all of last year but was made inactive for all but one game. The 6’4” 225 lbs receiver from Washington State was considered a raw prospect, but the Colts are pleased with his development and think he can be a deep threat. Patmon should receive more shots at the field this year.
Dulin has had a role mostly on special teams the past couple of years. With blazing speed, he has been a solid fit as a gunner, giving him an edge over some of the other receivers at the bottom of the depth chart. He has also been used on end-arounds and gadget plays within the Colts offense as well.
Strachan brings the biggest athletic profile to the Colts’ receiver room. At 6’5” and 224 lbs, the Division II prospect is a physical presence that can win deep and in jump ball situations. He was impressive at rookie minicamp and looks to build on that performance.
The early prediction is that Patmon and Dulin make the 53-man roster, with Strachan starting out on the practice squad as he develops his game. None of these spots are set in stone, and all will have to be earned in a crowded receiver group.
Have thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' wide receivers ahead of the start of the 2021 season? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!
See Below for More in This Series:
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMooreSI.