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INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts’ search for a deadly pass-catching duo has been going on for years.
Thirteen, to be exact.
You have to go all the way back to 2009 for the last time the Colts had two players (receiver Reggie Wayne and tight-end Dallas Clark) to reach at least 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
You have to go back to 2006 for the last time the team had two wide receivers (Wayne and Marvin Harrison) to accomplish that feat.
The Colts had a 1,000-yard receiver in Michael Pittman Jr.’s. in 2021. Now second-round pick Alec Pierce will seek to join him in that category and he will have every chance of becoming the team’s No. 2 wide receiver next season.
“He’s a great receiver,” Pierce said of Pittman, who was also in the second round (No. 34 overall in 2020). “I love watching him. I saw he had a great year last year on his second year. I think he broke 1,000 yards. So yeah, he’s a great player, a great receiver and I would love to learn from him. ”
Pierce’s numbers during his final season in Cincinnati do not automatically scream success. I finished 52 receptions on 884 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021. The reason behind that is that the Bearcats run a lot with the ball. The number that impressed Colts general manager Chris Ballard was the 17.0 yards per carry. catch he had on average.
“The only thing you notice about Pierce is that he gets behind people,” Ballard said. “I mean, this boy can really, really run and really adapt to football.”
Pierce was the 11th recipient selected in a draft class that was deep at the position. The Colts did not have a choice in the first round because they felt it for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021 for quarterback Carson Wentz, but Pierce has skills in the first round, according to some scouts.
“I did not know why he was not talked about that way, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out,” Ballard said. “But could Alec Pierce have played in Ohio State? Absolutely.”
The receiver was high on the list of needs for the Colts in the offseason. It became even more of a need as the free agency continued, and the Colts leaned back when Zach Pascal signed with Philadelphia. Veteran TY Hilton is still in the market and the Colts have not closed the door on his possible return, but the 32-year-old probably would not have the same kind of role he had throughout his career in Indianapolis.
Therefore, there will be opportunities for Pierce to step in immediately and gain influence.
His toughest contest for the No. 2 receiver spot is Parris Campbell, another second-round pick (No. 59 in 2019) for the Colts. The problem with Campbell, however, is his durability. It’s hard to be counted on as a reliable receiver if you can not stay on the field. Campbell has only played in 15 out of 49 possible matches in the regular season.
The returning receivers besides Pittman collected just 28 receptions and four touchdowns last season.
“It’s going to be very competitive,” coach Frank Reich said. “It’s the same thing every year. We talked about this as an offensive staff the other day before the draft even started. As much as any year there is no depth chart. We’re just competing. We’re rolling. We’re going to roll guys through It’s the NFL. In a way, everyone knows that what’s great about all these guys is that they know we want to put the best guys on the field. We roll through, everyone wants a chance to compete. . ”
One of the first people Pierce heard from after being drafted by the Colts was new starting quarterback Matt Ryan. The quarterback sent his new receiver a text message on draft night, in which he congratulated him, though Pierce at first was not sure it was him because the text simply said “Matt.”
What Pierce knows is that he was a fan of the relationship between Ryan and Julio Jones, who was Ryan’s primary recipient during their time with the Atlanta Falcons.
“I loved watching Julio Jones as a kid, so it was really great to see Matt Ryan with him,” Pierce said, “and hopefully I can become like a new Julio to him.”
Pierce spent most of his time in Cincinnati playing on the outside, but he has the ability to line up in the castle. Having that type of versatility is crucial in Reich’s offensive because it relies on a lot of movement, along the way, and will include even more play-action calls with Ryan as the starter.
Ballard said Pierce needs to improve his route and ability to get out of the line. He gets a chance to learn from one of the best in Wayne, the Colts’ new receiver coach, who had 1,070 receptions for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns during his career (2001-14, all with the Colts).
“I think I’m a guy you can put to the limit and I’m able to hit the cover one-on-one with speed and size, be able to take the ball, be able to stretch field vertically and hopefully get them to play safeties over the top and open up the running game, “Pierce said.