Colts: How much of a difference will TY Hilton’s return make?

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - AUGUST 15: T.Y. Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - AUGUST 15: T.Y. Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

The Indianapolis Colts have been soldiering through a tough beginning to the 2021 season, as five consecutive matchups against teams that had winning records last year has Indianapolis sitting at 1-4. TY Hilton, who was brought back during the offseason, hasn’t been on the field for a single snap due to a neck injury.

Hilton has made four Pro Bowls during his time in Indianapolis, and while he might’ve lost a step over the years, he would easily be a starting wide receiver on this team. Carson Wentz has done a solid job at quarterback considering all of the poor luck he’s had, but he hasn’t been playing with a full deck.

Luckily, Hilton has returned to practice this week, meaning he’s almost ready to resume his role as Frank Reich’s trusted, versatile veteran option. He can still make plays as a ball-carrier and stretch the defense with his speed.

How will his return impact the Colts’ passing game? He shouldn’t be expected to be so transformative that Indy starts reeling of 30-point wins every week, but he represents an upgrade over players like Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell, making him, at worst, the No. 2 receiver on the depth chart.

How will TY Hilton’s return impact the Colts?

Hilton is more dynamic than Pascal and more consistent than Campbell. Still a viable field stretcher for a quarterback that loves to show off his arm strength, Hilton, as well as Michael Pittman Jr., should be in line for tons of targets, especially considering the situation at tight end.

Hilton will take targets away from Pascal and Campbell, but the Colts have to realize that Pittman is the future of the wide receiver position in Indianapolis. His game against the Ravens was as good as we’ve seen from the former USC star to this point.

If Hilton comes back and plays a complementary role, this passing game could really get shot up into the stratosphere and open up more targets for Pascal and Campbell, too.

The Colts play four of the worst pass defenses in the league over the next two months, as they have games against the Texans, Titans, Jets, and Jaguars. Now is the time for this offense to really get rolling, and with Hilton back into the fold soon, we can finally see what this unit looks like with all of the heavy hitters active at once.

While Hilton might not be the Pro Bowler he once was, he should help Wentz stretch the field, which could open up more opportunities for Pittman underneath. He won’t change the scope of the passing game in the same way he used to, but he’s certainly a viable NFL receiver at this point in his career with the ability to make a few plays himself while creating openings for the guys around him.