Nick Sirianni On Being Back Around Philip Rivers, Spreading The Wealth In Passing Game, Big Month For Jonathan Taylor

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» After an entirely virtual offseason program, Sirianni has been thrilled to get the chance to actually work side-by-side with Philip Rivers once again: One of the biggest draws when it came to signing Rivers to be the team's new quarterback this offseason was the fact he had worked extensively with both Sirianni and head coach Frank Reich when they were on the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers' offensive coaching staff a few years back.


And after spending the entire offseason program utilizing virtual methods to get work done, Rivers was finally able to report to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center last week for the start of training camp, and this week has been getting in work on the field for the first time.


It's like old times all over again, Sirianni said.


"It's just an excitement and familiarity right there," Sirianni said. "It's just good to be back around him. And we've always had a good relationship, so it's great to have him in the building. And being 16 years in the NFL, that's great leadership for everyone to see. So it's been good for us as coaches, it's like having another coach in the building, and then obviously for the guys as well.


"One thing that is great about Philip is his consistency," Sirianni continued. "So I don't see a lot of changes. He's been a very consistent player for 16 years of his career. So I think that carries over in a lot of things that he does. I still see the same passion for the game, the same teammate that he was the last time I was around him."


» The Colts have plenty of weapons in the passing game — how does the coaching staff plan on consistently keeping them all involved in the gameplan? The Colts set out to become more explosive in the passing game this offseason; in doing so, they signed Rivers to be their new quarterback, brought in free agent tight end Trey Burton and also selected wide receivers Michael Pittman Jr. (second round) and Dezmon Patmon (sixth round) in this year's NFL Draft.


Those additions, on top of the returns of wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell, both of whom dealt with considerable injuries last year, and other returners like Zach Pascal and Nyheim Hines, should give the Colts plenty of opportunities to get plays in big chunks through the air.


Now comes the fun part: how do you figure out how to spread the wealth?


"As an offensive staff, our job is to get the guys to do the things they do the best," Sirianni said. "And for most of these guys we have an idea and use that to their strengths. I think that's what good coaching is, is don't ask guys to do something that they can't do, and let them play to their strengths.


"As far as the player side of it goes, these guys, I think they understand — they see a lot of talent," he continued. "And we have the right type of guys that nobody is saying, 'I've got to get my touches and I've got to do this, I've got to do that.' It's what's best for the team collectively. And I believe we that the guys that we have in the tight end room and the running back room and the receiver room genuinely care about each other, genuinely care about the success of this team and what's best for this team."


Sirianni, as he's noted before, said that the passing offense will run through the veteran Hilton, the longtime Colts No. 1 receiver, "and then everybody else has their role through that, as well, and we have great, selfless players that understand that, and that's what I feel a great team is."


» Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has a big month ahead of him: All positions have their respective challenges heading into training camp, but perhaps one of the more difficult jobs to pick up is at running back, where you're not only expected to be proficient running the ball, but you also must be spot-on in pass protection and as an option in the pass game.


The Colts are fortunate in that regard, considering they have three returning running backs — Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins — who all have multiple years of experience playing under running backs coach Tom Rathman, who is no slouch when it comes to the details of the position.


But the team also spent a second-round pick this offseason on another running back, Jonathan Taylor, who has all the accolades you could ever want coming out of Wisconsin, but still is yet to step onto the field for a full-speed NFL practice.


With no on-field work this offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the cancellation of all preseason games this year, Taylor's opportunities to get caught up to speed have been considerably cut down, setting up a big month-plus for the rookie running back to get game ready by the start of the regular season.


"(For Taylor this is) hugely important, because you get used to the speed of the NFL game at practice … for everything we are asking him to do protection wise, catching the ball wise, running routes, the different reads that he might have as far as running the ball on run plays," Sirianni said. " So there is a big adjustment that he has to make."


The fact of the matter is, however, that the Colts wouldn't have jumped at the opportunity to take Taylor in the draft if they didn't think he could handle everything that goes along with playing the position, including early on as a rookie.


"Coach Rathman is the best running back coach in the NFL. There is no doubt in my mind. So, he has the best coaching him to help him get everything he needs to be out of himself from a great coach and a guy who has done it as well," Sirianni said. " Obviously, there is a lot to learn. He is going to be protecting Philip (Rivers). That's not only to learn for himself but also for his teammates and the type of person I am starting to see that Jonathan is through the draft process and through this last week in person and through the offseason program we got to interact with him — he's all in. He's going to work his butt off to live up to expectations."
 
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