The 1-2-1 Indianapolis Colts play a must-win contest against the Denver Broncos in primetime on Thursday night. Indianapolis’ struggling offense must receive contributions from rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce. Pierce is being catapulted into the spotlight in front of a national audience. Viewers should expect Pierce to deliver a standout performance.
The Colts will be without starting running back Jonathan Taylor, who suffered an ankle injury in last weekend’s defeat to the Tennessee Titans. Last season’s rushing champion, Taylor is the engine that drives Indianapolis’ offense forward. His absence represents a huge blow. The Colts may become a pass-happier offense with Taylor on the sidelines. Pierce should receive passing-game volume as a result. Starting quarterback Matt Ryan will expect Pierce to make plays.
The No. 53 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Pierce was drafted to serve as Indianapolis’ No. 2 receiver. Through four contests, Pierce has recorded seven receptions on 13 targets for 141 receiving yards. It’s worth noting Pierce missed Indianapolis’ Week 2 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars with a concussion.
All seven of Pierce’s receptions have occurred in the previous two contests (he went catchless in Week 1). Pierce recorded career-highs in receptions (four), targets (six), and yards (80) in Week 4. Pierce’s 44-yard reception in the fourth quarter held a 33.8% catch probability, per Next Gen Stats. Pierce is making plays on the ball when afforded an opportunity.
Pierce currently ranks fourth among all receivers in yards per game (47.0), trailing just Drake London (57.8), Garrett Wilson (63.8), and Chris Olave (83.8). Pierce’s latest showings indicate his influence is growing within the structure of Indianapolis’ offense. Pierce has played at least 44% of Indianapolis’ offense snaps in his three appearances. He’s becoming a bigger part of their game plan.
Pierce is averaging an explosive 20.1 yards per reception. Pierce’s vertical abilities were a big reason why Colts general manager Chris Ballard identified him as a fit for Indianapolis’ offense. The Colts’ struggling offense desperately needs to create more explosive plays in the passing game. Pierce, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, is Indianapolis’ answer to threatening opposing defenses down the field with more consistency.
Ryan and Pierce are still getting on the page. Pierce has secured an inefficient 53.8% of his targets. Pierce owns a passer rating of 60.1 when targeted by Ryan, via Pro Football Focus. Ryan and Pierce’s chemistry remains a work in progress, but improvement will arrive with each passing game.
The Colts are scoring a league-low 14.3 points per contest. Pierce could provide the answer to Indianapolis’ current struggles. The turnaround must begin Thursday against the Broncos.
The Broncos may choose to blanket the Colts’ No. 1 receiver, Michael Pittman Jr., with elite cornerback Pat Surtain II. Surtain has arguably been the league’s best cornerback this season, and the Broncos will certainly utilize him to limit or eliminate Pittman, especially with Taylor on the mend. It may place Pierce in advantageous positions against Broncos cornerback Ronald Darby, particularly over the middle of the field.
Indianapolis’ offense is searching for answers. Head coach Frank Reich may be on the hot seat as a result. Getting Alec Pierce involved with more consistency may solve Indianapolis’ woes.