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INDIANAPOLIS – Before the Colts headed out for their first Training Camp practice at Grand Park, T.Y. Hilton made a statement that pretty much summed up the 2017 season.
“For me personally, I have to make plays for this team to be successful,” Hilton said in looking back on what he called a ‘down’ 2017 campaign, with the Colts going 4-12 and missing the playoffs for a third straight year, as the Pro Bowl wideout fell short of a 1,000 yards for the first time since his rookie season.
Frank Reich knows that comment by Hilton is how other teams viewed the Colts last year.
Stop Hilton. Stop the Colts.
The coach, not a player, says it’s up to his scheme to make sure the sole playmaking load doesn’t fall on the shoulders of Hilton.
“I’m not overly concerned about it because I think that’s part of our job,” Reich says of scheming up others to find chunk plays. “T.Y. has proven over his career he is a vertical, chunk-play guy.
“I think a lot of what we do in the offense is there are multiple ways to get chunk plays. You’ll see us do a lot of stuff schematically where we hit a shallow route where the ball is traveling about 10 yards in the air, and it’s a 25-yard gain based on some things schematically and coverage and the technique in which we teach certain things. If we can do that, I think we can expand the guys who get in that big playmaker category.”
In recent years, the Colts have lacked consistent playmaking opposite Hilton. They finished last season 29th in the NFL in pass plays of more than 25 yards.
It’s often been No. 13 or bust when it comes to getting that huge play which can totally change the complexion of a game.
But Reich is adamant that this offense is looking for throws that can be labeled as high percentage, but are also designed to give the pass catcher open space to turn the ‘shorter’ reception into a chunk play, via yards after catch.
We’ve seen the ball come out quicker this camp, which is a definite staple of what Reich wants to do.
“There is a pretty conscious effort to get the ball into the wide receivers’, running backs’, tight ends’ hands,” Andrew Luck says. “It helps the O-line and helps the quarterback. It helps everybody.”
But Reich knows the Colts still need to have the ability to hit the big chunk, when needed.
Rookie Deon Cain has possibly shown that skill with a knack for snagging 50/50 balls during Training Camp.
Sustaining drives is ideal and the goal. But Reich isn’t naïve to that method being the easiest way to achieve offensive success.
“How hard is it to sustain 10, 12 and 14-play drives?” Reich says. “We want to do that, and we will do that. But really, the winning formula is chunk plays.
“It’s consistency, avoid the negative plays, don’t turn the ball over, but then you have to have guys who can make those chunk plays so that it’s a 6, 7-play drive rather than 14-play drive.”