INDIANAPOLIS – When 3rd and 4th down arrives for the Colts in 2020, expect to see Nyheim Hines on the field a good amount.
Hines appears to have earned the trust of the coaching staff to take over some, if not all, of the return duties in 2020, while still being viewed as a unique option out of the backfield on passing downs.
Offensively, the Colts will obviously want to focus on Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor a lot as their lead backs.
Those two should be the guys on early downs, handling the vast majority of carries in 2020.
But when it’s time for 3rd down, looks for Hines to have a consistent role.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a game this year that Nyheim Hines has 10 catches,” Frank Reich says. “Philip (Rivers) has an uncanny ability to get the ball to the backs and checkdowns. Nyheim will be very much integrated into the game plan.”
In 2018, with Andrew Luck quarterbacking things, Hines caught 63 balls, while being targeted 81 times.
Those numbers for Hines dipped to 44 receptions, on 58 targets, with Jacoby Brissett in 2019.
Given Rivers’ history in finding backs, specifically with Hines’ skillset, the third-year back should be used quite often out of the backfield.
“Where I think Philip is really outstanding, he has this great ability to find the running back out of the backfield whether we’re scheming for that guy or whether it just happens within a protection, where he goes through his progression and finds that back,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni says. “I think for sure Nyheim will benefit from that. We had Danny Woodhead when Frank and I were together with the Chargers, and I think one year Danny had 80 catches. Yeah, Nyheim is going to benefit big time from playing with Philip Rivers. There’s no question about that.”
Of course, that’s music to the ears of Hines, who enters the back half of his rookie contract.
For the vast majority of Hines first two seasons in the league, the trust the staff had in him ended after 3rd down.
However, another opportunity to show he could hold onto the football, plus offer a spark, in the return game could lead to an expanded role for him in 2020.
Late in the 2019 season, Hines exploded as a return man, with 9 punt returns for 281 yards (31.2 yards per return average) and two touchdowns. He added 6 kick returns for 123 yards (20.5 yards per return average).
With former punt returner Chester Rogers no longer in Indy, and the kick return job seemingly open as well, Hines is licking his chops at those duties falling to him.
“I’d love to do punt and kick returns,” Hines says. “I would love to do both of them again, but I have to go out there and earn both the jobs. That is what I plan on doing. I’d like to start at both of them.”
The arrival of Taylor will likely take away a few carries from Hines, but that doesn’t mean his usage in 2020 will be entirely shrink.