Through the first five games of the 2023 NFL season, the Indianapolis Colts have two reliable receivers that the quarterbacks have been able to lean on. One is veteran Michael Pittman Jr. He’s in his fourth year in the league, a contract year, and has been Indy’s No. 1 wideout for a couple of seasons. His dominance this season has been expected.
The other receiver that has been a reliable target is Josh Downs. While there were expectations for him to be good, not many anticipated that he would be Indy’s second best receiver after five weeks. However, that’s exactly what he is, trailing only Pittman in receiving statistics for the team. Pittman leads Indy with 31 receptions for 297 yards and one touchdown. Downs has 23 receptions for 255 yards, but he hasn’t been able to find the end zone yet.
The best performance of his very young career came on Sunday, in his fifth game in the league. Downs was targeted six times, catching all six passes for 97 yards. The reason he got the ball so much is because he knows how to get open. Advanced stats from Sunday's game further proves that.
Josh Downs has been elite at creating separation
Against the Tennessee Titans, Downs averaged 5.19 yards of separation, by far the most on the team for wide receivers. As the graphic shows, the league average for separation created is 2.94 yards. Downs is well above the average. Creating space like that from defenders is definitely a way to make sure a quarterback keeps feeding you the ball.
At just 5-foot-9, 171 pounds, Downs is assumed to be a shifty receiver that wins with his quickness. That’s certainly been the case since he showed up in Indianapolis. He has consistently taking defenders’ ankles. However, head coach Shane Steichen believes that Downs has a natural feel for the game, and that’s what makes him special. That understanding of football likely helps Downs to find the openings in defenses, allowing him to make himself available to quarterbacks.
Hopefully, this is just the start, and Downs can continue getting open, making for a long career of dominance with the Indianapolis Colts.