Entering the 2023 NFL season, there were high expectations for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce. The second-year wideout was coming off a promising rookie season where he caught 41 passes for 593 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games. He had a great offseason, noticeably building his physique, and connecting on several big plays with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson throughout training camp.
Unfortunately, Alec Pierce didn’t get the kind of start to year two that everyone was expecting. Pierce had just one catch for five yards in the season opener. It took him until Week 6 to surpass double digit catches on the year, and rookie Josh Downs has leapfrogged Pierce, establishing himself as Indy’s No. 2 receiver to Michael Pittman Jr. On the season, Pierce has just 14 receptions for 202 yards, despite appearing in all seven games.
Looking at the stats, being concerned about Pierce is reasonable. Watching the games, however, lowers that concern. Alec Pierce’s low production is more about opportunity than it is struggle.
Colts must get Alec Pierce more involved
On the season, Pierce has only been targeted 25 times— that’s the fourth most on the team. Pierce has one less target than tight end Kylen Granson, who has only played in six games, and just six more targets than running back Zack Moss, who has also only played in six games. Michael Pittman Jr. leads all Indy pass catchers with 65 targets and Josh Downs is next with 47.
Yes, targets do have a lot to do with receivers’ skillset and getting open, but scheme is also a big part of it as well. Pittman and Downs have been involved in a lot of the action this season; the same can’t really be said for Pierce. Early in the season, when the offense was utilizing a lot of RPO action, the field was more or less cut in half for rookie Anthony Richardson. That left Pierce on the backside of the formation, where they occasionally called shot plays for him.
All season, Pierce has been making some tough, contested catches down field, but in the last two weeks, it seems like the Colts have been intentional about getting Alec Pierce more involved. He has been moved around some, and has also ran a variety of different routes. As a result, Pierce has been targeted nine times in the last two games combined, catching six passes for 78 yards, including all three targets in Sunday's loss to the Cleveland Browns.
It seems like the Colts are just working through getting everybody involved. Shane Steichen is a first-year head coach and he has been asked to manage a lot. Offensively, the Colts have had to deal with two different quarterbacks, getting two really good running backs involved, feeding the team’s No. 1 receiver, pouring into a promising rookie receiver, and also incorporating some talented tight ends. Alec Pierce’s production will likely come along as everything starts to settle in for this Indianapolis team.