INDIANAPOLIS – Well before Philip Rivers joining the Colts became a reality, Frank Reich had key metrics in mind of what needed to improve from the quarterback position.
The Colts ranked in the basement of the NFL last season in completion percentage and yards per pass attempt—two stats that matter a whole lot to Reich. They didn’t create enough chunk passing plays either.
It ate at Reich.
“When we look at some of the stats to get feedback on how we are producing, there are a lot of areas for improvement starting with the passing game,” Reich said back in January. “We need to get more production on the offensive side of the ball, big plays and we need to be a higher percentage.”
The Colts weren’t efficient enough through the air last season. They weren’t taking, nor connecting, on enough chances vertically either.
So, a change was needed at quarterback.
With the arrival of Rivers, the Colts have already seen a huge uptick in both of those areas.
Rivers currently ranks 1st in the NFL in completion percentage and 5th in yards per pass attempt. Rivers is 8th in the NFL with pass plays of at least 20 yards.
It’s been an unquestioned upgrade at the quarterback position, even with the Colts still needing to cap drives better—both on third down and in the red zone.
Following another solid afternoon from Rivers on Sunday—one that Reich labeled as ‘unreal’ by his QB—the head coach thought back to the offseason in what he believed, and is now seeing, in the 17-year vet.
“I know the kind of player this guy is,” Reich said of Rivers this past weekend. “I know the kind of teammate he is. I know the kind of leader he is. He’s an elite quarterback. He is so accurate, he’s so smart and he’s so tough. He just has a knack for making plays. I’m not surprised, he’s obviously made a lot of coaches look good with the way he plays, and I’m sure glad it worked out that he’s a Colt. I’m just excited about how he’s leading our offense and helping to lead our team.”
Consider this on Rivers’ accuracy and production so far in 3 starts.
In each of the three games, Rivers has completed at least 75 percent of his passes and reached a yards per attempt number of at least 7.5. Rivers is 3-for-3 in reaching those marks, an achievement the Colts hardly ever consistently sniffed that last season.
For what it’s worth, Andrew Luck reached such numbers in only 6 of his 86 career games.
It’s not meant as any knock on Luck, but just a reminder that the Colts have received improved (and needed) play at quarterback this season, even with T.Y. Hilton’s disappointing start and Parris Campbell on IR.
Back in training camp, the Colts were quickly reminded that Rivers still can be a very accurate quarterback.
Just days before the 2020 season started, Reich explained what he wanted to see from Rivers.
“I just want Philip to be himself,” the head coach explained. “I know he will. (He’s) a great leader, very comfortable in his own skin. Just play good winning football, execute what’s called, use your experience and your intelligence to make the checks, do it with confidence. Don’t feel like you have to win the game for us every week. We’ve got a good team. We’ve got a good roster. But he is a big part of any success that we’re going to have. It’s the quarterback position. So take what they give you. He’s extremely accurate. He has a great knack for the big play so obviously we’re hoping to get some big plays because of his ability and knack to do so. But also, I’ve been in games with Philip where he’s 20-of-25 and it’s dink and dunk. He can do that with the best of them as well. Sometimes different games dictate different things. Just take what they give us, when shots are there be aggressive and don’t think twice about it.
“I expect big things from him.”
It hasn’t been perfect from Rivers and the starting offense.
But it’s a far cry from the limitations that unit had last season when its quarterback took to the air.
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