Trevor Ruszkowski – USA TODAY Sports
Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard is playing a dangerous game. He doubles down on his belief that rookie and unproven young receivers will step up and contribute in a very beneficial way this season. Just like he did last season with the edge rushers.
Chris Ballard’s D-line plan didn’t work out last year
Last year, the Colts entered the season with DeForest Buckner as the primary catcher and passer on the defensive line. The hope was that Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis and Ben Banogu would step in in Justin Houston’s absence and be consistent, hard-hitting rushers. They would also be aided by rookies Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo. Turay, Lewis and Banogu have been in the NFL for a few seasons and the idea is that they could do the job with Buckner getting so much attention.
The team also believed that Paye could come in and produce right away and Odeyingbo would help once he was healthy. Well, we all know how it happened. Paye had a good rookie season. Lewis was really pushing forward until the turf monster attacked his leg against Tennessee. Odeyingbo got some NFL experience and Banogu was non-existent. This led to a couple of late game slumps where the defense couldn’t leave the field on third down. That is unless the distance is 10 meters or more. And even then, it was risky.
So, this offseason, the team remedied the situation by acquiring Yannick Ngakoue from Las Vegas. Ngakoue was a terror against the Colts. Now he becomes a terror to them. This move will have a nice knock-on effect on the rest of the D-line players. Paye will once again have one-on-one matches. Buckner will see fewer double teams and zero triple teams. So, you would think Ballard would have learned from his mistake last season.
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Indianapolis Colts repeat same mistakes at WR
Well, as of today, it seems Ballard hasn’t adjusted his mindset. It’s great that he believes in the players he recruits and selects. It’s great that he thinks they’re all going to be successful and have positive impacts on the team.
However, the Colts’ wide receiver room is Michael Pittman Jr and a bunch of question marks. If we include tight ends, it looks even worse. The other four wide receivers combined to catch 27 passes! A quick overview of pass catchers on the roster.
- Parris Campbell played a total of 15 games over three seasons and caught no more than 18 assists in one season.
- Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon, Mike Strachan and Keke Coutee combined for 18 catches, 225 yards and 3 touchdowns.
- Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson combined for 35 catches, 422 yards and 4 touchdowns.
- Alec Pierce and Jelani Woods are both rookies.
So how do you feel about this number two wide receiver and tight end for the Colts? MAC has shown flashes of being a legit NFL tight end, but he’s never consistently put it together.
Once again, Campbell has all the tools to succeed in the NFL. Unfortunately, his health did not cooperate with him. Could this be the season where everything falls into place? I’m optimistic about it, but I’m also pragmatic enough to know that there’s nothing to suggest it will be any different from previous seasons.
Dulin, Patmon and Strachan will get a chance to show they belong in the NFL and can play. It’s not very often that players have this kind of opportunity. Coutee has shown he can play in the NFL, but is similar to Campbell when it comes to health, which is a downside.
Granson is now expected to make more contributions than he did last season. And of course, rookies are going to be invited to come in and perform like NFL veterans. That’s a big ask from two players who haven’t been in big college football programs.
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TY Hilton offers lifeline to Colts
That’s why you constantly see Colts fans everywhere talking about the team signing a veteran receiver. Someone like TY Hilton makes a lot of sense because the Colts are the only team he knows and he knows the offense well.
Yes, he’s old and injuries have plagued him a bit more frequently in recent seasons. However, he still knows how to open up, take shots and produce. Last season, he was seventh in targets and catches, fourth in yards and tied for third in touchdowns on the team. Of the players still on the roster from last season to this season, only MAC and MPJ were better.
The Colts shouldn’t want to repeat the story of 2018 where they’re desperate for a wide receiver and have a chance to bring in 29-year-old Dontrelle Inman. The team should be pragmatic and proactive and bring in a veteran receiver now. Again, Hilton makes the most sense.
Julio Jones just signed with Tampa Bay and Odell Beckham Jr is still recovering from his injury in last season’s playoffs. Also, OBJ would need time to acclimate to the Colts offense. Whereas Hilton just needs to cut time with his fifth different quarterback in the past four seasons.
Despite all the great things Ballard does and has done, his stubbornness sometimes gets the better of him. It would make a lot of sense for the team to add a veteran wide receiver now and be in better shape for the upcoming season. Plus, it would save the local media from always talking about the need to add a wide receiver to the team.
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