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Colts’ 2023 rookie review: WR Josh Downs

The Indianapolis Colts rookie class from the 2023 season had plenty of ups and downs throughout what was an encouraging campaign from the organization as a whole.

With their first season now behind them, it’s time to take a quick look back at how they performed and where they may be headed in the future. In our rookie review series, we’ll be taking a look at each 2023 draft pick currently still with the team.

We’ve already reviewed the rookie seasons for quarterback Anthony Richardson and cornerback Julius Brents thus far.

Now, it’s time to review the rookie season for wide receiver Josh Downs, who was selected with the No. 79 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

2023 stats

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Games (Starts)

17 (9)

Receptions

68

Receiving Yards

771

Touchdowns

2

Targets

98

Yards per Reception

11.3

YAC per Reception (PFF)

5.5

Yards per Route Run (PFF)

1.60

 

What went right

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Downs proved right away he could be a quick-winning slot option for the Colts. His nuance as a route runner and ability to feel space against zone coverage was evident immediately. Downs set the franchise record for receptions by a rookie and was credited with just two drops on the season, according to Pro Football Focus.

What went wrong

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It isn’t clear if it was due to a knee injury he had been dealing with or if Gardner Minshew simply didn’t look the rookie’s way, but the second half of the season was not as productive as the first half. During the first eight games of the season, which was before Downs was reportedly dealing with a knee injury, he averaged five receptions and 59.1 yards per game. That put him on pace for 1,005 yards for the season. During the final nine games, however, he averaged just 3.1 receptions and 33.1 yards per game.

Best game

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Downs had a few strong games in the first half of the season, but none were better than his performance against the Cleveland Browns in Week 7. Though the Cols lost that game, Downs recorded five receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown on eight targets against a stout defense, highlighted by a 59-yard touchdown reception on the opening drive. It was the only time during his rookie season he would eclipse the 100-yard mark in a game.

Overall review

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, it was a solid season for Downs. It truly was a tale of two halves, and it still isn’t clear what led to the lack of production during the second half of the season. Despite that inconsistency, Downs proved he can be a quick-winning slot receiver over the middle of the field, and he should continue to grow into a reliable impact player with Anthony Richardson under center.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire