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Despite Fast-Paced Offense, Deep Ball Still Part Of T.Y. Hilton's Game

New head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni have promised a quick-moving offensive attack for the Indianapolis Colts. But that doesn't mean the team will ignore No. 1 wide receiver T.Y. Hilton's home run abilities.


INDIANAPOLIS — DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton.​

Since 2013 — Hilton's breakout second season in the NFL — those two wide receivers have the most receiving yards on deep passes in the entire National Football League.

That's according to Pro Football Focus, which has the speedy Jackson's 2,255 deep receiving yards the past five seasons just 42 yards ahead of Hilton's 2,213 on throws that travel 20 or more yards past the line of scrimmage.

And while Hilton has been able to make plays all over the field — not just always sprinting past cornerbacks and safeties deep down the field — it's no secret that the Indianapolis Colts are taking a completely different approach on offense this season.

Will the four-time Pro Bowl selection Hilton have to make major adjustments to his game this offseason to remain a major playmaker?

In some ways, yes, Hilton will have to make adjustments. That's just a natural progression when it comes to learning a completely new system with completely new coaches.

But, despite the fact the Colts and new head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni have promised a more fast-paced offense, that doesn't mean the deep ball, particularly to Hilton, is going away anytime soon.

Reich has likened his use of the deep pass to that of a boxer.

"A lot of jabs, stick and move, and then here comes the big punch," he said earlier this year at the NFL Owner's Meetings in Orlando. "And when you keep them off-balance with the jab and you set up the big one, that's the way it works best, and that's what we'll try to do."

The fact of the matter is Reich has stressed the ability to get the ball out of the quarterback's hands much quicker moving forward. That serves two purposes: it gets the ball in the possession of a playmaker and allows him to do what he does best, and it also can take the heat off the offensive line.

So, in that aspect, all eligible receivers, Hilton included, will need to work on their timing with the quarterbacks to ensure they're running precise routes and being available at the perfect time to make a play.

That approach, on the surface, doesn't quite lend itself to many big-play opportunities down the field.

But a quick look into Reich's recent history as the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles indicates his unit hasn't shied away from the deep ball; in fact, it was quite the opposite.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, in 2017, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had a passer rating of 94.9 on deep passes, ranking eighth in the NFL, and he had eight deep touchdown passes in his first 13 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

But, to be fair, the Eagles also were able to get those opportunities by having the league's third-best rushing attack.

So while the Colts work on getting that kind of balance on offense, Hilton is simply excited about the prospects of doing what he's always done — mixed in with some new wrinkles.

He's already got plenty of history with quarterback Andrew Luck — the Luck/Hilton duo, at 129.4, has produced the fourth-best passer rating on deep passes in the NFL since 2006, according to PFF — and now the Colts' offense hopes to keep some defenses on their toes throughout the 2018 season.

"You get to throw the ball down the field, you get to run the ball — you get to do everything," Hilton said of Reich and Sirianni's offensive approach. "So (it's) keeping the defense on their toes — they don't know what's coming. And it's hard when you don't know what's coming and the offense knows what's coming. So I look forward to it. It should be fun."

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