Six-foot-three, 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5, 6-foot-7… if you think I’m about to announce the NBA’s Indianapolis Pacers starting five, I wouldn’t blame you. However, it appears Indianapolis Colts General Manager Chris Ballard has a type as a stout group of pass-catchers is set to take the field for quarterback Matt Ryan this fall.
An offense known for its ability to run the football on the shoulders of Jonathan Taylor, the Colts didn’t get cute last year with Carson Wentz under center, slotting in with the seventh-worst passing offense in the league. It was ugly, nearly unwatchable at times, and with mass changes thus far in Tennessee, the Colts – if all comes to fruition – could have a one-way ticket to the AFC South crown this fall.
Diversifying an offensive game plan is something teams across the league have had to face in hopes of reaching NFL glory. Whether a team – like the Colts – was dominant in the run, or vice versa, a well-rounded offensive attack looks to be the blueprint to success for Head Coach Frank Reich this fall and the third consecutive veteran starter set to take hold of the offensive reins. While both Wentz, and quarterback Philip Rivers both enjoyed flashes of success during their respective pit stops in Indy, Ryan has juice left in the tank, and lots of it. With plenty of youth-infused perimeter talent set to become the focus via the passing game, Colts faithful should remain optimistic their team can ultimately taking a step up a rung on the AFC South ladder after three second-place finishes in the last four seasons.
The 53rd overall selection in this year’s draft, wide receiver Alec Pierce starting opposite of Michael Pittman Jr., could be a match made in heaven for Ryan. Two aerial artists with the hands and playmaking ability to dominate on the perimeter, Pierce’s addition has been often overlooked early in post-draft conversations. Two talents with nearly 13-feet of man between the two of them, throwing the 6-foot-4 presence of Dezmon Patmon, and 6-foot-5 Mike Strachan (a seventh-rounder in 2021), could present teams with a case of pick your poison if Reich deploys some unique 02 personnel (0 RBs, 2 TEs, 3 WRs) with tight ends Mo Alie-Cox, and Jelani Woods, who I’ll get to in a little bit.
Although defenses around the league have become quicker, lighter and faster to counter the ever-evolving offensive games scattered around football, size matters both inside and outside the hashes. When it comes to teams countering the vertical stature of the Colts, whether they’re elite separators off the line of scrimmage or not, Ryan will be consistently presented with advantageous matchups across the board on any down and distance he faces this fall.
Although there are certain athletes across the league that serve as outliers to the norm, football has, and will always be a big man’s game. Adding talents like Alie-Cox, a former standout on the hardwood at 6-foot-5, 267 pounds, and recently drafted Woods, similarly built to Alie-Cox at 6-foot-7, 259 pounds, if you’re Ryan, throw it up and let the big boys eat.
Woods, a third-round pick out of Virginia whose draft stock entered warpspeed following a dominant performance at the NFL Scouting Combine where he ran 4.61-second 40-yard dash at his aforementioned size, his projection as a talent that can align both attached to the line, or flexed out to the perimeter, will cause headaches for opposing defensive coordinators for years to come. He was dominant at the East-West Shrine Bowl and should see a healthy amount of one-on-one matchups against undersized linebackers and safeties with eyes focused on Pittman Jr, Pierce, Patmon, Alie-Cox and Strachan.
No matter the sport, the saying goes that players historically get ‘bigger, faster, stronger,’ as the years wear on and the game evolves. For the Colts, whether it simply rings true, or Ballard just prefers big bodies on the outside, Indianapolis will present one of the more unique personnel rooms in football this year with athletes that won’t be difficult to spot.