Colts rookies have potential for big impact on offense

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Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. #6 of the USC Trojans makes a catch from quarterback Matt Fink #19 in the game against the Utah Utes at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 20, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Ballard leaned offense in April’s NFL Draft.

The Colts’ general manager used five of his nine picks on that side of the ball, including four of his first five choices.

He used his top pick on big-bodied (6-4, 223) USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

That size – both his frame and his hands – was Colts’ offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni’s first impression of the second round pick as the rookies reported to training camp.

“It’s really comforting to see how strong his hands are and how good his hands are,” Sirianni said on Friday. “He has great hands. The major requirement for that position is being able to catch a football, and Michael sure can do that. He’s a big man.”

Ballard traded up to land Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor later in the second round. The second all-time leading rusher in Big Ten history is another player with size.

“I look at him and say, ‘I would hate to have to tackle this guy all game long.’ I don’t get paid to do that, but I can see other people are going to think that way,” joked Sirianni. “A defensive coordinator saying, ‘man, our guys are going to wear down from tackling him because that’s a big man.'”

Playing running back at the pro level may be one of the more difficult positions to learn with all of the responsibilities: rushing the ball, running pass routes and most importantly – pass protecting.

Sirianni knows Taylor has a lot of work ahead of him this month, but says he has the talent and the right people around him to do it.

“Marlon [Mack] is going to help him develop because Marlon is a great person and a great teammate. Nyheim [Hines] is going to help him develop. Jordan [Wilkins] is going to help him develop,” Sirianni said. “Then he has a great running back coach. Coach [Tom] Rathman is the best running back coach in the NFL. There is no doubt in my mind.”

The Colts selected Washington quarterback Jacob Eason with the 122nd overall pick in the fourth round, then in the fifth grabbed offensive lineman Danny Pinter, a local product from Ball State and Adams High School in South Bend.

Pinter will help provide offensive line depth after veteran swingman Joe Haeg left in the offseason for Tampa.

“He loves football,” Sirianni said about Pinter. “He’s smart, he’s tough and he’s going to fit in really well with our offensive line group because those are common characteristics that they all have.”

The Colts took one final offensive piece with their sixth round pick, Washington State wide out Dezmon Patmon.

Training camp has been the first opportunity for Sirianni and head coach to see these rookies face to face and on the field after the offseason program went virtual amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve spent so much time studying them,” Reich said. “I feel like we have a pretty good idea of what they can do. Is it perfect? No, but I feel real confident comparatively speaking we’re in good shape.”

With no preseason games this year, the first time the rookie class will don the “Horseshoe” will be the season opener September 13 in Jacksonville.

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