INDIANAPOLIS – The meeting between the three minds who have all coordinated NFL offenses also included Philip Rivers.
Being discussed was the usage of rookie wideout Michael Pittman, who had returned from a leg injury to play in two games—where he was targeted 1 time and then 7 times.
Fresh off that 4-catch, 56-yard performance (in 7 targets), Pittman had the attention of Rivers, head coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and wide receivers coach Mike Groh.
How did the conversation go?
“’Hey, we need to build off of this last game’,” Reich recalls. “’Pitt showed flashes and if we’re going to go where we want to go, he’s going to have to be a guy, an important part – a cog in the wheel of what we’re doing. Let’s build off this momentum.’”
Reich is spot on labeling Pittman has such a critical piece of the Colts making a late-season push and/or playoff run.
Simply, the Colts need help at the wide receiver position. That was true entering 2020, and has only been exacerbated by the loss of Parris Campbell and quieter production from T.Y. Hilton.
Second, we know Philip Rivers has always been a fan of bigger body wideouts. While Pittman is that, he’s also much more than just a taller receiver.
He showed that in his breakout 7-catch, 101-yard outing against the Titans, which also included a 21-yard reverse.
“There was a conscious effort to get the ball to him in the way that we did,” Reich said of Pittman getting 8 targets and 1 carry against the Titans.
“This guy is fearless. He’s fearless in every way, but when the ball is in his hands, he wants to hurt somebody. He runs very aggressively. That one shallow route he caught, he turned the corner on (Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro) and showed speed. Then he did a great job blocking and he did a great job running on the reverse. That wasn’t possession type stuff, that was big-play receiver stuff, and we need to see more of that.”
Reich did make it clear in the draft process that Pittman had ‘good-body quickness’ and that was something that had the head coach falling in love with the USC product.
The Colts thought Pittman could do some damage with the ball in his hands at this level. You see Pittman run in the open field and traits of his father, who was a 10-year NFL running back, are there.
Up to this point, we’ve yet to see the Colts really target Pittman with 50/50 jump ball looks—something he excelled in at USC.
Even back in September, when Pittman’s production was smaller, Rivers was seeing strides.
“The one he got hurt in (Week Three against the Jets) he was coming on strong and had a little setback with the injury,” Rivers says. “So I think it’s just a little more of that, him coming back and now getting back in the flow having been hurt. I feel like the game is slowing down a little bit for him. Certainly not too big for him. I knew that from day one. (Against the Titans), he was just playing fast. You see him catch that shallow and turn the corner, had some other big, physical catches. It was definitely a heck of a game by him.”
And the Colts hope it’s the start of many more as they reach their stretch run in a crowded AFC.