Colts Film Room: Michael Pittman Jr. is a well-rounded playmaker

The Indianapolis Colts selected Michael Pittman Jr. at 34 overall, and he can be a big contributor in year one.

It was clear that wide receiver was a need for the Indianapolis Colts entering the 2020 NFL Draft, and general manager Chris Ballard clearly also believed the notion. Ballard didn’t waste time addressing the position, selecting USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. with the 34th overall pick and the Colts first one in 2020.

Pittman Jr. fit the Indianapolis Colts and Ballard’s standards for a lot of reasons. First, he tested well athletically, running in the 4.5s and posting good agility drills for his size. Pittman Jr. was also a team captain and went to Mobile for the Senior Bowl, two things Ballard and his staff like to see.

Let’s dive in to the film and see what Indy is getting in Pittman Jr. Let’s just say, he’s as well-rounded as they come.

Route Running

If there’s one thing to highlight early on with Pittman Jr., it’s his advanced route running for a player of his stature. This isn’t to say he’s on the level of a Jerry Jeudy or Justin Jefferson, but Pittman has some things to like. He showed some of the potential at the Senior Bowl, and you can check out some reps here.

Pittman did most of his work in a vertical route tree at USC, mostly running go routes, hitches, and comebacks, which he refined very well. Here against Notre Dame, Pittman Jr. runs a clean hitch route, not wasting any steps at the top of his stem, and working back to the football, something wide receiver coaches and quarterbacks love to see. That showed up in numerous games last season.

While most of his work was on that linear plane, Pittman Jr. did do some limited work with in and out-breaking routes. Here, he does a good job using his hands to cross the face of the defender, still gives a look like he’s trying to work vertically, but firmly plants his outside foot to make a subtle cut over the middle to create some separation. Reps like these are important to see when entering an offense like Frank Reich’s.

Pittman Jr. starts this route out by working down field on an inside track, then adjusting to work vertically in a straight line at the defender. Then, he snaps off his route by sinking his hips and works back to the line of scrimmage for that extra bit of separation. He just needs to finish that rep off by securing the catch, otherwise it’s a great comeback route.

Play Strength

Play strength is a huge part of Michael Pittman Jr.’s game, and it shows up in a variety of ways, and those will help him get on the field for the Indianapolis Colts early and often in his rookie season.

Press coverage is something Pittman Jr. will see a lot of in the NFL, and it’s good to know that he can be relied on to win off the line of scrimmage against it. Here, we see that, with him getting contact at the line of scrimmage. Pittman uses his hands well to fight off press while also keeping his momentum working down the field. He gains separation and finishes it off by tracking the ball well.

His play strength also shows up after the catch, where he can run through would-be tacklers and keep his balance through contact. He does that here, running though a defender to reach the end zone.

This was something that was important to bring up regarding play strength. Hand fighting is important for receivers, especially working vertically. Corners won’t give him the win at the line of scrimmage. They’ll stay physical with their hands, so a wide receiver needs to stay active with his hands to keep off contact while also turning an eye back to the quarterback. This is a good rep to show that.

Ball Skills

Here’s where we get to the fun part of Pittman Jr.’s game, an area that will be important to current quarterback Philip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts.

It’s important to see great ball skills at the wide receiver position, especially at 6’4. Pittman Jr. does a great job on this rep. His quarterback throws it to Pittman’s back shoulder, and he makes a great adjustment to the football and secures it with strong hands.

Tracking the football is important down the field, and Pittman Jr. is great at it. He adjusts his strides slightly in this rep to keep it over his shoulder and shielded away from defenders, making it look easy in the process.

This rep is all-around outstanding, just like Pittman Jr. is. He starts on a vertical stem and makes a subtle jab to the inside to sell the skinny post, freezing the safety for a split second. He makes sure to get position on the football by stopping and adjusting course, and high points it perfectly in the best position possible. Pittman Jr. then finishes it out with a stiff arm and takes it to the house.

Blocking

Let’s also not forget about blocking as an important trait for wide receivers. It’s always good to see receivers compete as blockers, and Pittman Jr. does a good job of that. He has good hand placement on his blocks and engages defenders well with a good base and strong hands. Let’s look at this rep though.

Pittman Jr. did this on a few occasions. Here, he comes towards the middle of the field and takes a defender completely out of the play, and that allows his running back to take this for a score. This rep should be on loop for receivers.

Overall/Fit with Colts

So how does Pittman Jr.’s game fit with the Indianapolis Colts? Well, we know Reich used a lot of quick game concepts with horizontal routes, which relies on receivers to gain quick separation. We’ve seen examples where Pittman Jr. can create that separation, as he’s explosive out of his breaks.

Next: Colts Film Room: Jonathan Taylor

However, the addition of Rivers will create a bit of change in offensive philosophy. We will see more plays that will take advantage of Rivers’ desire to push the ball down the field, and Pittman Jr. is the man for the job there with his catch radius, ball skills, and hands. Michael Pittman Jr. is so well-rounded that he fits with everything that Indy wants to do on offense. Get ready for a fun season.

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