Don’t let Hakeem Nicks 2 receptions for 12 receiving yards performance last Sunday fool you, he’s an integral part of the offense.
In the past two weekend’s games that has seen the Indianapolis Colts offense score a combined 85 total points, Nicks’ usage is up, and it’s up a lot. Yes, 6 targets and all.
While some of the offense’s recent point potency can be attributed to the ineptitude of their two most recent opponent’s defenses, the Jacksonville Jaguars (32nd) and the Tennessee Titans (27th) respectively in allowed ppg, the Colts are starting to open up their passing attack. By opening up their passing attack, it means more 3-wide receiver sets. By having more 3-wide receiver sets, it means more of wideout Hakeem Nicks…if you catch my drift.
Last week, we saw a direct inverse relationship between the usage of H-Back Jack Doyle and WR Hakeem Nicks in snap counts in Weeks 2 vs. 3. Compared to Week 2 (Eagles), in Week 3 (Jaguars), the Colts used more Nicks and less Doyle, as they looked to open up their passing attack.
We noted that this logically made sense because:
Theoretically, if Doyle is getting more playing time, it means the Colts either have a fullback or 3-tight ends in, both of which depict a power-run formation. However, if Nicks’ is in, it oftentimes means that the Colts have a 3-wideout set, which is clearly a passing formation.
While we didn’t see the direct inverse relationship this week that we saw between Nicks and Doyle in Weeks 2-3, what we did discover was that Nicks usage was up even further in Week 4 against the Titans than it was in Week 3 against the Jaguars.
Nicks played in +12.9% of snaps than he did in Week 3 against the Jaguars. Having opened up the offense then, the Colts opened up the offense even more this past Sunday against the Titans. Pretty scary thought.
Pep Hamilton is clearly getting increasingly more comfortable in handing QB Andrew Luck more reins to the offense, as indicated by his combined 8 passing touchdowns in the past two games. Some of this can be attributed to the recent success of the Colts’ offensive line, giving Pep Hamilton increased confidence in calling pass plays because he trusts his big guys will keep Luck upright.
However, let’s not overlook Hakeem Nicks’ newfound presence either. No, he certainly hasn’t lit the world on fire through 4 games with 12 receptions for 94 receiving yards and 2 Touchdowns on the season. Yet, don’t discount that his 2 touchdowns through 4 games are already more than the “#2” wide receiver he replaced, Darrius Heyward-Bey (DHB), had all of last season for the Colts.
Nicks may not be the young star of a receiver that he once was considered to be with the New York Giants only a few seasons ago, but let’s not downplay just how important something as simple as running clean routes and catching passes can be for a savvy quarterback like #12. His predecessor, DHB, had admittedly struggled with both during his entire NFL career, and that clearly didn’t change in his one season with the Colts in 2013.
As now the Colts’ 3rd wide receiver in role, Nicks has helped to ignite the team’s offense, just by doing two simple things: run and catch.