INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni today spoke to local reporters via conference call. What's the latest on how talented he believes the team's running back group really is, what specifically rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. is working on improving and why he'll never grow tired of working with Philip Rivers.
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some key takeaways:
» Sirianni believes the Colts have one of the best running back groups in the NFL, and the best he's been around: Ideal size, speed, strength, vision, pass-catching ability, pass protection — the Colts have it in spades when it comes to their four running backs: Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins.
And perhaps the best part about the group is each guy can do it all, but they all have their own specialty, whether it's Mack's all-around game, Taylor's blend of size and speed, Hines' abilities catching the ball out of the backfield or Wilkins' vision and patience.
"I think we have to have one of the better groups in the NFL; most certainly it's probably the best group I've been on in my short time, in my 12 years, in the NFL," Sirianni said. "So (I'm) very pleased with this group."
The Colts last season finished seventh in the NFL in rushing yards per game — just 1.5 yards per contest out of the top five. There's no reason to believe Indy can't be one of the elite rushing teams once again in 2020.
"What a great, great group that we have, right?" Sirianni said after listing what makes each back stand out. "Really excited to have them."
» Michael Pittman Jr. is learning how to play better against press coverage: Sirianni said one of the biggest adjustments rookie wide receivers have to make is going from playing relatively free off the line of scrimmage in college to having pesky defenders not afraid to get up in their face from the snap at the professional level.
Pittman Jr., the Colts' second-round (34th-overall) pick in this year's NFL Draft out of USC, has been working hard on making that adjustment the last week or so in the team's first few training camp practices.
That in itself creates some up-and-down moments, but Sirianni likes how Pittman Jr. has responded thus far, as he's been a constant target of quarterback Philip Rivers.
"We have different things that convert versus press and versus zone or press coverage. So those guys have to get use to changing their route based off what look they get. And for a lot of times in college, that's not necessarily the case; they're just (like), 'Hey, you run this route that's on the paper, and go do it,' and there's not a lot of adjustments. So that happens especially early on with some rookies, that they have to adjust to that.
"Coach (Mike) Groh's doing a great job of zeroing in on the techniques that we believe in and that we know are necessary for the NFL, but (Pittman Jr.'s) doing a great job so far, and a big man that can change directions and with great hands — those guys work."
» Philip Rivers' accuracy, pass distribution continue to amaze Sirianni: Sirianni never took for granted the five previous seasons he had an opportunity to work closely with Rivers when he was on the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers' coaching staff as an offensive quality control (2013), quarterbacks (2014-15) and wide receivers (2016-17) coach.
But now that he's reunited with Rivers, who is beginning his first season as the Colts' new starting quarterback, Sirianni is being reminded of those elite traits once again.
One of them is involving the running backs in the passing game, which has already been a major theme throughout the first week or so of Colts training camp practices.
"Philip, in my opinion, is the best in the NFL — and maybe in the history of the NFL — of finding his back," Sirianni said. "He's phenomenal at doing that. And for big plays. That's just, if you look at his history, just what he's done.
"Just having that innate ability to know where his back is on all plays, keep his eyes downfield, try to push it down the field, 'Oh, I can't,' boom, check it down. He's just unreal at that. I think that's one of the better things he does."
And then there's Rivers' accuracy. He currently ranks ninth all-time in NFL history in completion percentage (64.7), and he's doing it once again so far through camp; according to Colts general manager Chris Ballard, Rivers' completion percentage the first few days heading into Friday was hovering around 90 percent.
"He is so accurate," Sirianni said. "That never gets old to me."