INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts wide receivers coach Mike Groh recently sat down for a Colts.com 1-on-1 interview. What are his thoughts on how wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. can have a successful rookie year, the depth at wideout and the expected competition at spots during camp and more?
Here is that interview in its entirety, which you can also listen to above:
With a unique offseason coming to a close, what is your main takeaway from all the challenges over the last few months, particularly with the virtual meetings and no on-field time?
Groh: "Yeah. I mean, you refer to the virtual setting, obviously that's unique, but I think that we've adapted very well to it. We've been efficient with our time and maximized our time, made the most of the offseason here, particularly in light of the circumstances, not able to be out on a practice field together. But yeah, I think we're off to a really, really good start."
You obviously have a history working with Frank Reich with the Philadelphia Eagles; how much has this offense changed or evolved even since that time?
Groh: "Well, there's a lot of similarity to it, but the languages is different. So it's just a matter of learning a new language. There might be some subtleties and techniques or something that is important to Nick (Sirianni) or as Nick and Frank has gotten back together as this offense has evolved. Every system is a little bit different and you kind of take bits and pieces of everybody's experience and then blend it together and then make it your own. So, just a matter of me just coming in and learning those things."
What's the biggest drawback of not actually having your players on the field together this offseason?
Groh: "Well, there's probably a lot of things, but there's no replacing practice. It's essential to what we want to get done. I think the repetitions, particularly for younger players in terms of them getting out there and getting the experience, learning from experience, say, 'I did this well,' or, 'I would do this differently the next time.' Then when you put a defense out there in front, and then of course the picture changes again for them. So, we'll make up that ground just like everybody. We're not any different than anybody else in the league, so it's all about when we get back out there together and make up that ground quickly. I think our guys have maximized their time. In our virtual meetings, they've been very attentive, they've been asking the right questions, they've been answering the questions when they've been asked, and they've been studying. So, they've obviously invested their own time, sacrificed their personal time to study exactly what we're doing so that they can learn it. Then, we just got to take the final step and get out there and get in the huddle and get to the line of scrimmage and call some ball plays."
In those virtual meetings, how have the receivers gone about working with Philip Rivers in this offense so that not only does he understand them in terms of what makes them click and how they prefer to run routes, but how they can understand him and his preferences at quarterback?
Groh: "Yeah, I don't know that you can do that by talking through something without having experienced it together. There's certain subtleties that you can get. We try to go through a script of plays on a daily basis and call out guys and have them answer questions, and visualize, just try to use visualization techniques to put ourselves out there on the field together. I do think that the ability to visualize exactly what to do, how to do it, why you're doing it, that that can enhance your performance. We certainly do believe that. We've tried to educate and instruct our guys and to try to lead them down that path so that they can use these visualization techniques and put themselves stored around the field and in the huddle together. So, I think as much as we've been able to do that, and the guys have actively engaged in doing that, and then we just got to take the last step. Hopefully everything starts on time, we're able to get out there and start practicing."
I know you were not here last year, but how hungry do you see T.Y. Hilton this offseason? I mean, he missed those six games last year, did not have the season that he would have liked from a production standpoint. How hungry do you see him being and trying to rebound and improve that he's still T.Y. Hilton heading into 2020?
Groh: "Well, if the videos that he sends me on a daily and weekly basis are any indication, I'd say that he's extremely hungry. So, I think we've got a hungry football team, I really do. I know there were expectations surrounding the Colts in the season that they would have last year, and didn't quite live up to that. So, I think that we've got a group of guys that are hungry and certainly want to prove that we're among the elite teams in the NFL."
Another wide receiver that I know you're high on is Michael Pittman Jr. We've heard since the draft ended that he is pro ready. What does pro ready mean in your eyes for a guy that's coming out of USC and translating to the Colts in his first year?
Groh: "I think that Michael, first of all, you look at his physical stature, he's got the size and strength, he's got play speed that you look for. I think he's an instinctive player, he's very intelligent. So in terms of his ability to grasp an NFL system, he played in multiple systems throughout his college career, different coordinators, so he's had to adapt there, had the mental flexibility to be able to do that. I don't think he's a guy that you only have to play at one position. I think we'll be able to move him around a little bit inside, outside to be able to utilize a skillset, great matchup advantages for him and for us. So, I just think that there's a maturity there for a guy that's spent a full four years in college and really had to earn his way and played on special teams and been productive on special teams. So, we really like him as a complete football player and somebody that we think is a very good complementary piece to the other guys that we have already on the team. Obviously, we all need to elevate our play to get where we want to be, but we think he'll be a big part of what we want to get done."
What's the biggest thing Pittman Jr.'s going to have to adjust to, in your eyes, out of the gate in the NFL?
Groh: "I think it's not any different for Michael than it is for any rookie. I mean, you've got to get out there. You're playing against guys that have been playing in the NFL for three, four, eight, 10 years. They have the experience, they've got certainly a level of strength development that until you get older that you don't necessarily have. So, the speed, the strength, obviously the length of the season, all those things factor into to what challenges rookies. We're very confident that Mike and Dez (Dezmon Patmon) and all the guys that we bring in will be up to that challenge."
How excited are you to get your hands on Parris Campbell? What excites you most about him as a raw player that pretty much is redoing his rookie season over again after a bad luck year injury-wise?
Groh: "Yeah, it's unfortunate that he had the injury bug last year, but that doesn't diminish his skillset. Parris is somebody that I think is a threat on all levels. He's somebody you can get the ball into their hands very quickly, he's dynamic with the ball in his hands, can make people miss, break tackles. He's got vision as a runner. I think he certainly has the ability and the skillset to be a very good route runner. So as an intermediate player, I think you're going to see a lot of development there, just going into his second year and being able to dedicate himself to becoming a complete receiver. Then, he's a threat deep. I mean, he's got the speed that gets people's attention. You've put on the tape, the DBs that lineup across from him know that he can run by them, so that backs people up and that helps the offense, that helps run game, it helps the other guys around him when you have a guy like that on the field that people have to pay attention to. So, it's just football is one of those things: sometimes you have one of those years where things are out of your control, impact your season, but we got a lot of confidence in what Parris Campbell's going to do for us."
The Colts have a dozen receivers on the roster right now. Traditionally, the most you can keep is five or six guys on the roster after the preseason. What do you make of all the depth and the proven talent you have on the team right now? What are some things that training camp and the preseason are going to boil down to in terms of who makes this team at wide receiver?
Groh: "Well, you mentioned 12. I think that's pretty standard throughout the league. I've been in circumstances where we've had 11 or 12 guys on the roster in training camp every year that I've been in the league. So from that standpoint, that's very common and guys know that it's very competitive. They've all been vigilant in terms of their preparation for our meetings on a daily basis and making sure that if they were called on to answer a question, that they had the right answer. So, I think from a mental preparation standpoint, they've done everything that we've asked them to do. Now, we just got to get out there and get on the field and compete against our defense who we know they're going to present a significant challenge to us on daily basis and coached up by 'Flus (Matt Eberflus) and those guys on defense. So, we got to get out there, see who can make plays, and then blend the skillsets of the receivers with the tight ends, the running backs, and get out there and just put it all together. So that's the final piece. There's no replacing that. Obviously you can get a lot of work done like we have and be productive like we have, but we've got to get out there on the practice field together and then see what these guys can do."