Chris Ballard is betting on Michael Pittman Jr. to make a leap

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The Indianapolis Colts may not have a star in their wide receiver corps, but they believe second-year pass-catcher Michael Pittman Jr. has what it takes to fill that role in the room.

Pittman Jr. showed some promise during his rookie campaign, but his development was slowed due to a leg injury he suffered during the first half of the season. With a fully healthy offseason, general manager Chris Ballard said on “The Athletic Football Show” with Robert Mays of The Athletic that he expects Pittman Jr. to take that next step in 2021.

“Yeah, well, I’m betting on Michael Pittman, who I think has got a chance to be really good,” Ballard said via Luke Schultheis of Stampede Blue. “I thought he ended the year strong. He had a big playoff game with over a hundred yards.”

There is no denying that Pittman Jr. has the size to be a prominent X-receiver in the league. At 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, the USC product can be the leader in the wide receiver room as soon as 2021.

But getting there will take some development. With Philip Rivers under center in 2020, Pittman Jr.’s route tree was pretty limited. Likely due to Rivers’ declining arm strength, the majority of routes Pittman Jr. ran were slants, digs and crossers.

There wasn’t much in the way of downfield routes, which was interesting given Pittman Jr.’s college tape. But on those routes he did run, he was very successful. According to Matt Harmon of Reception Perception, Pittman Jr. had a 91.5% success rate on slant routes.

The Colts re-signed T.Y. Hilton to a one-year deal, but there is a good chance that Pittman Jr. takes over the room in terms of targets in 2021. Maybe Wentz’s big arm gives Hilton a bit of a revival on downfield routes, but Pittman Jr. has the skill set to take over the room.

Whether he will do that is one of the bigger questions the Colts face in 2021 but if it’s up to Ballard, he’s betting on the second-year player becoming a breakout.

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