INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July upon us, and the start of training camp now within sight, it's time for the Indianapolis Colts' Burning Questions series.
We continue today with the wide receiver position:
» Can T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell shake the injury bug and consistently play significant roles in 2020?
The Colts, unfortunately, were bitten by the injury bug at the wide receiver position in 2019: T.Y. Hilton, their top receiver, was only able to play in a career-low 10 games as he dealt with a few issues, most notably a calf injury; Devin Funchess, who signed a free-agent deal to become Indy's No. 2 receiver, suffered a broken clavicle late in the team's season opener and never was able to return to game action the rest of the year; and Parris Campbell, the speedy second-round pick out of Ohio State, suffered several injuries throughout the year and was limited to just seven total games. While Funchess has since signed elsewhere, Hilton and Campbell are once again expected to be major contributors to the Colts' passing attack in 2020 — Hilton as Indy's No. 1 receiver, and Campbell mostly doing his damage from the slot. They're back to full health again and hope for better fortunes injury-wise so that the Indy offense, led by a new quarterback in Philip Rivers, can reach its full potential.
» What kind of boost will Michael Pittman Jr. provide in his rookie year?
The Colts were elated when they were able to select USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. with the 34th-overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. At 6-4, 223 pounds, Pittman Jr. is a big target who has displayed elite hands and range to make tough catches across the middle, but he also has enough speed to get behind the defense and snag some big plays over the top; he's also more than willing as a blocker in the run game, and he was a special teams standout at the college level. Head coach Frank Reich has said he envisions Pittman Jr. as an ideal X receiver in most of the Colts' offensive formations, meaning he'll do a majority of his work lined up on the outside. While most rookie wide receivers experience some sort of learning curve — whether it's working through stifling press coverage or just generally getting adjusted to the speed of the game and all the information they have to process — the quicker Pittman Jr. can catch on, the quicker the Colts' offense can really take off.
» Who will win the final one or two spots on the depth chart?
What's pretty clear: the Colts' top four wide receivers entering training camp are Hilton, Zach Pascal, Campbell and Pittman Jr. But depending on how many total receivers the team ends up keeping on its Week 1 roster, that currently leaves nine other receivers battling it out for just one or two spots. A strong case could be made for four of those nine receivers, especially: Ashton Dulin was a special teams stud as an undrafted rookie last year, and is also an option as a kickoff returner; Daurice Fountain was having an outstanding training camp last year when he suffered a gruesome season-ending ankle injury, and he's worked his way back; Marcus Johnson showed his big-play potential in eight games with the Colts last year, finishing with 17 receptions for 277 yards (16.3 avg.) and two touchdowns; and Dezmon Patmon was a sixth-round pick in this year's draft who has plenty of size (6-4, 225 pounds) and potential. Then there's Rodney Adams, DeMichael Harris, Malik Henry, Artavis Scott and Chad Williams, all of whom could take advantage of their opportunities during training camp and the preseason and earn one of those final two spots, as well. The Colts will undoubtedly have some tough choices to make at the position come early-September.