INDIANAPOLIS – When looking deeper into the film of Michael Pittman, Frank Reich saw specific routes, plays and catches that had the head coach wanting such a presence in his offense.
There comes a time in an NFL game, when a critical third-down arises, and you need your wideout to win in man coverage.
1-on-1. On an island. Go win.
“We envision Michael as being the ‘X’ receiver,” Reich says. “For a lack of a better way to say it, the guy that you want to put when you’re in a trips right and he is singled into the boundary (to the left) and you can throw one-on-one to him. There are a handful of routes that you want to throw to him. You think about those things when you pick a guy. You think, ‘Okay, we can throw these five things to him.’ Those things come to you right away.
“We do envision Michael as that ‘X’ receiver that every now and then you can just say, ‘Hey, they are playing a lot of man-coverage. Let’s put him into the boundary and throw on-on-one and expect him to win.’”
Following the end to his 4-year career at USC, Pittman has been busy training with 11-year NFL vet T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Getting Pittman to use his size (6-4, 223 pounds), speed (4.52 in the 40-yard dash) to accelerate and decelerate smoothly, which will help him in creating more separation, is something the two have worked on.
Reich thinks Pittman’s maturity, both physically and emotionally, is a reason why he can be more of an impact guy early in his career.
“You get a guy like Michael who can be on the outside, who can be that one-on-one guy and can be that big guy who is good on the 50-50 balls down the field and yet the speed to still run by you, so that not every throw is a 50-50 ball.
“He is going to run by some guys. I really believe that.”
After catching 101 balls for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019, Pittman was the 8th receiver taken off the board in the 2020 Draft, part of a historically deep wide receiver class.
In virtually in any other draft, a player with Pittman’s resume wouldn’t have lasted until No. 34 overall.
But he did, and he’s a player the Colts had higher on their board, for things that you can’t see by just looking at his notable statistical production.
“We’ve watched everything you can imagine, not only the target tapes but the blocking tapes and the press tapes where (the ball is) not always going to him (and) I think that’s where we fell in love with this guy,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni says. “Not only did he impress on his target tape, but it’s the other stuff he does. It’s the ‘Zach Pascal, Jack Doyle’ stuff he does, the toughness, the consistency. That was what was exciting.
“Obviously, a great phenomenal football player with the ball in his hands and when the ball is coming to him, but a lot of special qualities he had that separated him from other wideouts we evaluated when the ball wasn’t going to him.”
And a guy, from Day 1, the Colts see being a massive (and different) part of their offense.