Colts: Could Frank Reich’s offense prevent Michael Pittman Jr. from breaking out?

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 29: Michael Pittman Jr. #11 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 29: Michael Pittman Jr. #11 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Indianapolis Colts pride themselves on developing young talent through the draft, and Michael Pittman Jr. appears to be their next undertaking at the wide receiver position. The son of a very consistent and productive running back, Pittman arrived out of USC as a ready-made possession receiver.

Despite a somewhat slow start, Pittman had a quality rookie season under Frank Reich, catching 40 of Philip Rivers’ passes for 503 yards with one touchdown. Pittman is positioned to be the No. 2 receiver once again in 2021, likely behind TY Hilton.

With Marcus Brady installed as the offensive coordinator and Carson Wentz looking to get his career back on the right track in Indianapolis, the Colts might be disappointed if a healthy Pittman produces roughly the same stat line in 2021.

If Pittman is going to break out and become the No. 1 receiver that Indianapolis is hoping he can be, this is the year to do it. What numbers would Pittman need to record in order to prove he’s on the fast track to stardom in the NFL?

Could Michael Pittman Jr. become a star for the Colts?

Optimistic fans are completely justified with regards to their rosy outlook for Pittman. After coming from an Air Raid USC offense that doesn’t necessarily translate well to the NFL and playing with a quarterback simply incapable of extending plays, Pittman had solid production.

With his size, verticality, and speed, imagine what he can do with Wentz and what promises to be a more explosive passing game.

Still, there are plenty of obstacles that he has in his way. Schematically, going back to his days as an offensive coordinator in San Diego and Philadelphia, Reich has rarely had one top dog wideout raking in big numbers, instead favoring a more evenly-distributed offensive attack.

As Rivers and Wentz have proven, tight ends like Antonio Gates and Zach Ertz stand to benefit from an offense like this. Jack Doyle and Kylen Granson are nowhere near those two, but that’s a concerning trend for Pittman.

Even with that, Pittman is now going to get undisputed WR2 targets, at the very least. If Hilton struggles to either stay healthy or match the production he was able to put up in the Andrew Luck days, look for Pittman to become the top wide receiver; 1,000 yards would be all but a guarantee.

At the end of the day, if Pittman ends up getting anything near 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns this year, considering the limitations that the quarterback play and scheme might place on him, Indianapolis should regard that as a massive victory.

Even if he fails to take that giant step forward, his floor is so high that he should make a number of impactful plays in critical situations this year. He’s just that kind of player.