Ryan Grant and Colts wideouts see star potential in new offense
Ryan Grant had a point to make Tuesday afternoon, and he invoked rap royalty to help paint the picture.
The free agent wide receiver preparing for his first season with the Colts cited last summer's biopic "All Eyez on Me," a dramatization of Tupac Shakur's life story.
"Before he hooked up with Dr. Dre, no one really knew who he was," Grant said of the artist who died in 1996 and was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. "But when he got with Dre, he was booming. So I feel like that’s kind of like how I am coming here to Indy."
In Grant's metaphor, the part of Dr. Dre is played by Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck. The three-time Pro Bowler is expected to return after missing all of last season while recovering from right shoulder surgery.
And a fast-paced offense designed by new head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni awaits him.
It's still a while until the public will get its first look at the scheme, but it's being promised as a combination of elements from Reich and his coaching staff's past.
There will be pieces of the Eagles' daring attack that incorporated concepts popularized in the college game like the run-pass option and helped make stars of two quarterbacks — Carson Wentz and Nick Foles — en route to a Super Bowl win against the Patriots.
Reich was the offensive coordinator for Philadelphia over the past two seasons, and though head coach Doug Pederson called the plays, the entire offensive staff was involved in the weekly game plan. Assistant coaches were encouraged to suggest plays and concepts they've seen work elsewhere and tweak them to fit with the Eagles' personnel.
Reich plans a similar approach in his first season leading the show with the Colts.
A coaching staff with wide-ranging experience can draw first-hand inspiration from sources as diverse as the Los Angeles Chargers, the CFL's Toronto Argonauts and the high-scoring college offense at Iowa State.
The very early results have produced a complex system that's already winning over the players.
"I feel like we’re not handicapped in this offense, and I feel like it’s gonna bring the best out of all of us, all our potential," third-year wide receiver Chester Rogers said. "No knock on the last offense (in Indy), but it’s going good."
The innovative approach already is on display.
In addition to the typical film study and whiteboard work used in installation, Sirianni has been handing out written tests once or twice a week to see how much information his players are retaining.
The tests cover things like formations and route concepts.
"The past one was like a mid-term," Grant said. "It was multiple choice, some short-answer questions."
The players, of course, have turned the quizzes into a competition. Rogers got the highest score — a 96 — on the "mid-term" and was angry at himself for not getting a perfect 100.
He missed one question, and he knew the correct answer.
The real challenge is translating that knowledge to the field. The Colts are working on that part of the process during Phase II of the offseason program, which continues through next week.
The offense can't work head to head against the defense, but it can get on the field with the coaches and run through plays at something close to full speed.
"Then you get on the field and we’re going full speed and now you’ve gotta remember what you just did in the classroom," Rogers said. "That’s really sometimes the hardest part, putting it on the field and knowing on a split-second what you gotta do."
Skill players will move all around the formation in this scheme, and it's critical they know what each of the others is doing.
That adds to the difficulty of the learning process, but it also should add to the difficulty for opponents trying to defend this offense in the fall.
"With this offense," Rogers said, "everybody’s going to be open."
That should take some of the load off top wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who has been asked to carry the big-play potential for this offense for far too long.
If everything goes as planned, it could also serve as just the sort of star-making vehicle Grant envisions it to be.
The tests will keep coming — on paper and on the field — and a mostly young and unproven wide receiver corps is determined to continue making the grade.
"Each and every day we come in here, it’s a learning process," Grant said. "I feel like we’re up to speed, and as the days go on it’ll only get better and things can take off."