The Indianapolis Colts have yet to address their need for more depth at wide receiver this offseason. While general manager Chris Ballard admitted wide receiver is a team need, he shared an alternative to simply signing free agent wideouts to fill the need.
“Nyheim [Hines], we need to use more,” Ballard told staff writer Zak Keefer of The Athletic at the NFL’s Annual League Meeting in Palm Beach, FL. “Frank [Reich] knows that. I think they will. They’re going to play him more in the slot. And if you look at the year under Philip [Rivers], I think he caught 60-something balls.
“He needs to be a big part of the offense because he’s a valuable part of the organization, and he’s a weapon.”
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Nyheim Hines as a Weapon
Coming to the Indianapolis Colts as a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Hines has been a solid contributor in the running game. But he’s best as a pass catcher coming out of the backfield.
In four years, Hines has recorded 60-plus catches and at least 425 yards in a season twice. In fact, the last two years the Colts made the postseason, 2018 and 2020, Hines had 60-reception campaigns.
Last season with Carson Wentz behind center, Hines had 40 catches and 310 receiving yards. Both of those figures were career lows along with his 57 targets.
New Colts quarterback Matt Ryan should have no issues getting Hines involved. With the Atlanta Falcons last year, Ryan’s favorite target at times was running back Cordarrelle Patterson, who lined up all over the field for Atlanta.
Patterson experienced his best offensive NFL season in 2021 and finished the campaign third for the Falcons in both catches (52) and receiving yards (548). He also led the team with five receiving touchdowns.
Hines could provide Ryan a similar outlet option out of the backfield this fall like Patterson did last season.
Colts Still Need Wide Receivers
While Hines is a great weapon that can be utilized more in Indianapolis’ offense, there’s no denying that the Colts still need more outside wide receivers.
But both Ballard and owner Jim Irsay preached patience while speaking with Keefer about the team’s wideout situation.
“We talk about the real specifics at wide receiver we’d like to have … you’re looking for super competitive guys who are very productive and explosive but have great change of direction and great hands,” Irsay said. “You’re looking for a real specific talent at this point, and it doesn’t appear to be out there.
“Again, we have the draft picks, and we’re excited about that. We know it’s hard to bring in a rookie just plug him in. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. Again, patience is critical, and not making mistakes is critical.”
The Colts can afford some patience because Michael Pittman emerged as a top receiver last season. Pittman posted 88 receptions for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns in 2021. But Indianapolis’ second wideout, Zach Pascal, left in free agency.
Still, Ballard likes what the Colts have coming back at receiver.
“Do we need to add? Yes. I’m not going to sit here and say we don’t,” Ballard said. “But we have some young players that we like.
Those young players are Parris Campbell, Keke Coutee, Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon and Michael Strachan.
Coutee experienced some moderate success with the Houston Texans, reaching 400 receiving yards in 2020. But the other four young wideouts have under 600 receiving yards combined in their careers.
“It’s one thing to believe in your young players; it’s another to willfully ignore a glaring need,” Keefer wrote about the Colts wide receiver situation.
Keefer added the team could still afford a “moderately-priced veteran” at receiver, and fans shouldn’t “rule out” that the Colts could draft a wideout in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
For now, though, the Colts plan to feature a lot of Hines and Pittman to move the offense through the air next season.