INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni recently sat down for a 1-on-1 interview with Colts.com's Larra Overton. What did Sirianni have to say about a redemption year for T.Y. Hilton, his first impressions being back around Philip Rivers, Trey Burton's potential impact and more?
Here is that entire interview, which you can also watch above:
There definitely seems to be a palpable energy coming from this team so far through the first few days of training camp. What's the dynamic like for you, finally being able to get back into the complex and with the players?
Sirianni: "As much as I love being home with my family, it's great to be out here coaching again, and it's great to see the players again, and I know it's great for them too. It's exciting, like you're saying, for all of us just to be back in the building together working to become better each day."
What have your first impressions been of Philip Rivers and how he looks, not only in regards to his health and fitness at this point of his career, but the work he's been able to put in so far?
Sirianni: "He's still really accurate, he's still (got) really great feet in the pocket, so, yeah, it's just good seeing him again in person, throwing the football — when he's hot, and he's throwing the ball, he's so accurate, and it's always so nice to see him and the ball being right on where it's supposed to be. I mean, he could hit this doorknob right here from 50 yards back right where you wanted him to hit it and lock the door doing it somehow, so that's awesome to see, and it's just good being back around him and excited to have him here."
Along with quarterbacks being able to get in a little early, your rookies were some of the earliest players reporting for training camp. What is your assessment so far in regards to where your rookies are in regards to where you want them to be in this atypical year?
Sirianni: "They look like they're in great shape; great physical shape. Obviously the next step is being in great football shape. And that's what this next month-plus is for. And as far as mentally goes, I feel like our coaching staff did a great job of getting their guys ready as far as mentally and knowing what to do. So I see Michael Pittman knowing exactly where to be on the field, I see Jonathan Taylor knowing the right footwork to take. Obviously that's no surprise to me; Mike Groh and Tom Rathman are great coaches, and same with Chris Strausser with (Danny) Pinter, and everybody. Now the next step is … so obviously that's very encouraging 'cause you're not starting at Stage 1. It's not Stage 1; we've had this whole offseason to mentally do it, now it's knowing how to do it, right? So you know what to do, and know how to do it — their fundamentals and techinque, we missed out on some of that time, so we need to make up on that. And then just route discipline, route detail — 'Hey, Philip's expecting you to be here, alright? Yes, I know you know you have this in route, but you're supposed to be here on the field. It's very specific.' And so that's what we're working on now that we have them in person."
You've had the opportunity to work with your rookie wide receivers, who are coming into a great room of returning veterans, as well. How do you rate your wide receiver depth at the beginning of camp?
Sirianni: "A lot of people in this league would love to have what we have. You know, you have guys … T.Y.'s (Hilton's) made a ton of plays; Zach Pascal made a ton of plays last year, he was awesome last year; Parris (Campbell) made his plays last year … and then you look at the depth of it, Reece Fountain was having a phenomenal training camp, and there's a lot of guys that are No. 3, 4, 5 on your wide receiver depth chart that look like him, he's a stud; we have Michael Pittman in the mix, who had just a phenomenal college career at a great college with a ton of tradition at USC, so we know that he is very capable of being everything we think he can be, his talent is there and now he's just gotta go do it; Marcus Johnson made so many plays for us last year; Ashton Dulin. I mean, you could just keep going on and on. There's a lot of people out there in this business that would love to have the wide receiver depth that we have, and that's an exciting thing, because the depth breeds competition, and competition breeds development. And these guys are gonna keep developing — and they have to, because the guys right behind them in line (are) ready to go and take their spot if they don't."
Frank Reich always talks about bringing the "juice;" I've got to imagine the wideouts group on this team has just about the most juice of any unit on the roster.
Sirianni: "No doubt. No doubt. It's an exciting group. It's a great group to be around. They not only bring talent on the field, but they also bring excitement to the meeting room and the practice field on gameday as well."
You mentioned T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell, both of whom are coming off those injury-shortened seasons in 2019. How much motivation do you see them coming in with, looking for some redemption this season?
Sirianni: "Yeah, definitely. I know I've had conversations with T.Y. where he's said that. And, man, thinking about how he said it, I don't know exactly how he said it, but he's hungry. And I got goosebumps even thinking about what he said; I gotta go look at what he said. But what he said just made me think, 'Man, this guy is pissed that he missed last year — through no fault of his own, obviously injuries happen in the NFL — and he's hungry to show everybody, and everyone's gonna pay because he missed some time last year.' And so I'm so excited about that. Parris — obviously Parris went through about as many ups and downs as you can go (through) as a rookie, and what I love about Parris Campbell is that he's going to respond. That's just the type of guy he is, and that's a credit to Frank and to Chris (Ballard), the type of players that they want to bring in. He's going to respond to adversity, no matter what. … And he went through it, and I know he feels the same way (as Hilton) having talked to him. So, man, it's going to be exciting when Parris scores a touchdown this year early in the year, and when T.Y. scores one. Hopefully they both happen Week 1, and it's just going to be exciting, 'cause not only will that moment be exciting, that they've come back from their adversity, but there's going to be a lot more moments to come after that, too, so I'm excited for them. And the reason they're going to recover is 'cause of the type of players and people they are."
Your starting offensive line is certainly one of the best in the NFL. Behind that, when you examine the depth you have at those five spots, in the limited time to do so, how do you approach evaluating the talent that you have there?
Sirianni: "We evaluate them through the grind with the pads on. So (I'm) glad we didn't miss any of that time with the pads on, and that's what they're about to get coming up here. So obviously very important to build the depth there — we were very fortunate last year that our starting five was able to stay in tact all year; very fortunate, not every team's that fortunate, not every team I've ever been on has been that fortunate. And so obviously at every position it's critical that we build that depth, but we know the offensive line in this offense is the heart and soul of this offense; we know that. We go as they go. We are successful as they're successful. So if one of them does have to miss time, it's so important that the next guy in steps in and we don't miss a beat, because that's our heart and soul right there, our line of scrimmage."
What are some things that you've seen already from Rivers since his signing, whether in Zoom meetings or since he's been in the building, that really solidified that this was the right move for the offense?
Sirianni: "Just the way he takes charge of meetings, and the questions that he asks. And, man, it's like, again, just everybody talking about plays, like, 'Hey, what do we like against this look?' It's like you have another coach. To get another coach to help us out with gameplanning, you can't have enough good minds there. So I don't know if it's just one thing … it's just the cumulative of everything, right? It's just the presence, the leadership — it's everything — that really goes to say this was the right move."
Coach Reich talked about envisioning how heavily Trey Burton will be utilized in this system. How much of a system can he be for Rivers, and then playing alongside a guy like Jack Doyle and how those two can complement one another?
Sirianni: "I think you saw how good Jack Doyle was when he had Eric Ebron right next to him. So Jack's just only going to succeed when it's almost like … I almost think of Jack like a good pass rusher, when he has another good pass rusher on the other side and he's just going to keep get better because they can't focus all their attention on him. I think if you look at Frank and myself's past with tight ends, and Philip's past with tight ends, that they've just caught so many balls, so many touchdowns. And I think of Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green in San Diego, I think of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, and then I think about Zach Ertz and Trey in Philadelphia, and then I'm thinking about Jack and Eric here these last couple years, and now Jack and Trey. I mean, gosh, we've been doing something right there at tight end; we've been really lucky at tight end, as far as Frank and myself go, for all these years with having these great tight ends. Because it's a nightmare matchup for the defense, and so it feels like it's just another … I don't know, we're getting spoiled. Like, it's like, 'OK, this is the way the tight end room is supposed to be. We're supposed to have two tight ends that can really create mismatches.' So we have that, and we know the success that we've had with players like that and the success that Frank's had with Trey and another great tight end in Zach Ertz. Just really excited to get him there; just makes us more multiple to defend, and just another playmaker on the field. So super excited for Trey to be here with our offense; he's really going to make us a better offense."
How much does that help in the transition, the fact that Burton has that experience with Coach Reich, and then Rivers also having that experience with Coach Reich and yourself, given how amplified practices are going to be during this next month?
Sirianni: "Yeah, obviously the rookies have no experience with us, but I think about the free agents that we brought in, with Trey and Philip. And I think we really lucked out there as far as … no one could predict what happened, with what's going on right now with COVID and everything like that. But we ended up really lucking out; like, the new free agents that we brought in, we have so much familiarity with them. That's a huge advantage that, again, just like not every team has two tight ends like that, and just like every team doesn't have the depth we have at wideout, we also have the advantage there that we know our free agents very, very closely. So that's a huge advantage for us. I really do believe that."
With not having the opportunities to get out onto the field in the spring, and now no preseason games, how much of a sense of urgency is there right now to amplify these opportunities that you finally have of getting guys into the building, getting to work with them first-hand?
Sirianni: "We're excited to get them in here and start working with them. I think it is a little different this year, obviously, without the preseason games, but we are going to be the same way as coaches; I don't think we ever think, 'Well, we've got a preseason game to evaluate them. Let's not put everything into this practice.' No, we're going all-in, and no matter if it was we had a preseason game or we didn't, that's our time to evaluate, that's our time to get guys better and develop guys. So obviously we're super excited about that, and just look forward to working with these guys and seeing this team."