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Michael Pittman Jr. expects more this fall.


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Michael Pittman Jr., now Colts’ No. 1 WR, expects more this fall

By Zak Keefer

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Four days after it was over, after they had, in the general manager’s words, “embarrassed ourselves, embarrassed our owner and embarrassed our city,” Michael Pittman Jr. slogged through a workout at the Colts’ west-side practice facility while Chris Ballard put to bed an unthinkable loss and late-season collapse.

“We got our * beat,” the GM said in his season-ending news conference, answering for the two January losses that cost the Colts a 97 percent shot at the playoffs.

Pittman, the Colts’ leading receiver, should have been readying for a wild-card playoff game that day. Should have been prepping for the Bengals or Raiders or Patriots or Bills. He instead was working out inside the team’s indoor practice field, stopping to listen to Ballard’s comments — the GM addressed reporters some 40 yards away — every few minutes.

He was just four days removed from a standout sophomore season. Pittman delivered on the lofty goal he’d set before the 2021 campaign, doubling his production in every critical receiving category: upping his receptions from 40 to 88, his yards from 503 to 1,082 and his touchdowns from one to six.

Furthermore, he solidified himself as The Guy at wide receiver in Indianapolis, assuming the mantle long held by T.Y. Hilton.

Heading into 2022, he wants more. He wants to be a bona fide, no-questions-asked No. 1 wideout.

“Last year, I said that I was going to double every single category, and I did that,” he said. “This year, I’m trying to build on that and become that definite receiver No. 1 that everybody talks about.”

Early indications are that Pittman is on track to do that this season. The arrival of new quarterback Matt Ryan should help immensely — the two were in sync during spring practices, and Ryan’s quick release should help head coach Frank Reich’s timing-based offense run more efficiently. Reich has made it clear: Pittman is the top target in the passing game.

But the passing game has to be better in 2022.

Pittman made plays with Carson Wentz, but when the Colts’ aerial attack crumbled late last season, Pittman’s production dropped. As Wentz’s accuracy fell off, the Colts became incredibly run-centric. They stopped throwing down the field.

They were the league’s most run-heavy team by season’s end, according to the Cook Index.

Pittman had 55 catches for 729 yards and five scores in the first 10 games. But over the last seven, his yards per catch dropped from 13.3 to 10.7 and he reached the end zone just once, a meaningless late-game touchdown in the Week 18 debacle in Jacksonville.

Despite the collapse of the Colts’ passing game, Pittman still finished 17th in fantasy points among receivers, according to standard scoring and PPR, and all but six players ahead of him received more targets than his 129. Two of those players ahead of him, Deebo Samuel and Cordarrelle Patterson, also served as running backs.

Reich does love to spread the ball around, but the Colts gambled a bit this offseason, adding little outside help to the receiver room. They did take a wideout in the second round in Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, but behind Pittman, there is very little proven talent at the position. Returnees Parris Campbell, Dezmon Patmon, Ashton Dulin and Michael Strachan combined for just 28 catches and 237 yards last season.

It was Pittman’s show in 2021 and, for the most part, it will be again in 2022.

Bring it on, he says.

“Everybody has their own definition,” Pittman Jr. said of becoming a proven No. 1 wideout. “I think I am that. I’ve just got to go ahead and prove that to other people, with whatever they think it is, whether it’s yards, touchdowns, whatever. I’m just trying to make that next jump.”

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Putting pressure on himself, I like that. Sometimes that’s the best way to stay hungry, keep digging and get better. I know there’s a good amount of people who aren’t fans of him, but I’m pulling for him. 
 

You got this, MPJ! Your success means the team’s success. Give ‘em hell.

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