INDIANAPOLIS – In the eyes of the GM, the need is nowhere near as urgent as some others on the roster.
And in taking the pulse of the fan base, the attention Chris Ballard gives in upgrading the wide receiver position is at a much lower level than some of the high level pass catchers we saw help lead their teams through recent playoff runs.
Ballard believes the Colts pass game has to be better in 2022.
“It just has to be. It’s a passing league,” Ballard says.
But when asked specifically about what the Colts have at wide receiver, it’s a shrug of the shoulders in seeing that position as a definite place to address this offseason.
“No, I feel like we have good, young players,” Ballard says when asked if he thinks wide receiver needs to be upgraded heading into 2022.
“I think every year we are trying to upgrade every position,” the GM adds. “Would I like two or three dynamic (wideouts)? Absolutely. Absolutely. But I think we have some good young players to work with.”
Whereas Ballard specifically pointed out tight end, defensive line and cornerback as positions that need definite attention this offseason, he never went there with wide receiver during his season-ending presser last month.
Now, did seeing the postseason play out change Ballard’s mind (Ballard shared those comments in the week leading into the start of the 2022 playoffs)?
Look at the final 8 teams in this year’s playoffs and their top wideout: Titans-A.J. Brown, Chiefs-Tyreek Hill, Bills-Stefon Diggs, Bengals-Jamar Chase, Packers-Davante Adams, Bucs-Mike Evans, Rams-Cooper Kupp, 49ers-Deebo Samuel.
Take it a step further and look at the pass catching duos of the final four playoff teams: Chiefs-Tyreek Hill/Travis Kelce; Bengals-Jamar Chase/Tee Higgins; Rams-Cooper Kupp/Odell Beckham Jr., 49ers-Deebo Samuel/George Kittle.
Where would the Colts rank on either of those lists?
That’s the reality of where the Colts currently sit in the pass catching department, no matter if Ballard has high hopes for those behind Michael Pittman.
“(Zach) Pascal is a good football player. He had over 600 yards two years in a row. T.Y. Hilton, he had 750 the year before. Unfortunately, he had the injury. T.Y. is one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around. And he still knows how to play. We have some young players in (Dezmon) Patmon who made the play in Arizona. (Ashton) Dulin has had his moments of making some really big plays for us this year. And Michael Strachan has really good upside.
“I think we have good, young talent.”
It should be noted that Pascal and Hilton are free agents this offseason. Hilton is seriously debating retirement, too. And Parris Campbell has played in 15 of 49 possible games as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.
Patmon has caught 2 balls in his two NFL seasons.
Dulin has never had a game with more than 2 catches in three NFL seasons (43 career games).
Strachan played 10 offensive snaps in the final 15 games last season.
Serious development is needed in baking on any of these guys ascending to a consistent depth chart presence.
Also, for those wanting to point towards the draft, Ballard has never been a big fan of expecting rookie wideouts to make early impacts.
The free agency route has some intriguing names, but also several guys coming off major injuries (Bears-Allen Robinson, Jaguars-D.J. Chark, Rams-Odell Beckham Jr., Bucs-Chris Godwin, Cowboys-Michael Gallup).
Again, it’s hard to find another position group on the roster that Ballard views in such difference compared to so many, particularly when you look at the last teams standing in the NFL this past season.
Ballard says tight end needs an upgrade.
What about the other pass catching area?
Will wide receiver get that behind Pittman, or it will bank on in-house improvements?