Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano couldn’t have been more enthusiastic Tuesday about which player has impressed him during offseason training activities.
Fifth-year wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has caught his coach’s eye.
“T.Y. is having as good an offseason as anybody, probably better than anybody right now,” Pagano said. “There’s a lot of good stuff going on out there, but I’ve never seen this guy practice as fast as he’s practicing right now and competing at the level he’s competing at and leading the way that he’s leading. He’s done it day in and day out.”
Hilton went to his second consecutive Pro Bowl last season after signing a five-year, $65-million contract extension, including $38 million guaranteed, during training camp.
Despite the Colts’ decline to 8-8 and failure to make the playoffs, Hilton caught 69 passes for 1,124 yards and five TDs while playing with five different quarterbacks.
Hilton, 26, is now the elder statesman of a Colts receiving corps that includes third-year pro Donte Moncrief and second-year pro Phillip Dorsett. The Colts are adjusting to a new playbook installed by offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who took over playcalling duties during the 2015 season and was retained in the new title.
“This is when you start building relationships and trust,” Hilton said during the outset of OTAs. “Take coaches out to dinner. Coaches take you out to dinner. You get familiarized with one another, just kind of learn from one another. Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This is the time we grow as a team and unit.
“It’s just different. New coaches everywhere, new players. We’re just trying to build with one another and learn and just try to get comfortable with one another.”
In four seasons, Hilton has caught 283 passes for 4,413 yards and 24 touchdowns. He’s established himself as one of the league’s most capable deep threats and displayed his speed again in Tuesday’s workout with a deep touchdown catch during seven-on-seven drills.
“When we hit the field, we want to hit the field running,” he said of offseason work. “As long as we’re playing fast no one should stop us.”
The trio of Hilton, Moncrief and Dorsett form one of the fastest pass-catching trios on a team in the NFL. Perhaps the most welcome practice-field development for them is a healthy Andrew Luck at quarterback, who Hilton says, “looks great.” Luck missed nine games last season due to injuries, but has looked strong in OTA practices.
“We just missed each other,” Hilton said.
Although Hilton is typically an understated player, he sounded more like a leader in reminding last season fell far short of expectations.
“We know how we’ve got to get better,” he said. “Eight-and-eight we know really is unacceptable for the Colts.”
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