Vincent Jackson talks Philip Rivers in Indianapolis and offers advice for Colts rookie Michael Pittman Jr.
Many believe Pittman Jr. could evolve into a Vincent Jackson Jr.
The Indianapolis Colts are making a change under center in 2020, as they signed former Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to a one-year deal worth roughly $25 million. Last year, Jacoby Brissett threw for 2,942 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions while the Colts went 7-9, so head coach Frank Reich opted to go in a different direction with a veteran for this season.
Just one year after leading the Chargers to the divisional round of the playoffs, Rivers threw 20 interceptions in 2019 as Los Angeles went on to win just five games. With Indy, however, Rivers will be reunited with Reich, who was his quarterbacks coach for one year and offensive coordinator for two more seasons with the Chargers from 2013-15. With Rivers having turned 38 in December and with him signing just a one-year deal, everyone is curious if the eight-time Pro Bowler plans on this being his last season in the NFL. That suspicion grew twofold when Rivers was recently named the future head coach at St. Michael Catholic High School in Fairhope, Alabama -- whenever he decides to hang up the cleats. Coach Reich says Rivers will play more than just one season in Indy, and he's not the only one.
During a recent interview with CBS Sports, Rivers' former teammate and three-time Pro Bowl wideout Vincent Jackson said that Rivers can be a legitimate starting quarterback for more than one season, but that it will ultimately come down to him.
"I hope he does," Jackson said when asked if Rivers could still compete at a high level. "He's not the youngest guy in the world, but you know what, I think he can produce for another couple of years."
Other than the familiarity with Reich, another thing that could entice Rivers to come back for another season or two is how successful the weapons around him are. In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Colts used three of their nine picks on weapons that have a chance to make an immediate impact for Indianapolis. General manager Chris Ballard used his first pick, No. 34 overall, on one of the most enticing wide receivers in this class: Michael Pittman Jr. out of USC.
Many have compared Pittman Jr. to Jackson, since they have a similar frame and playing style. Ballard even said the USC star was "Vincent Jackson-like" in a pre-draft meeting.
"Every time I watch him, I like him better. He's big, he's a build-up-speed guy, he can finish on the deep ball, he wins 50-50 battles. I just think the guy's gonna be a good football player in this league," Ballard said, via Pro Football Talk.
Jackson says he has heard some of the comparisons, but wants to see more out of the second team All-American at the next level before he dubs him the next Vincent Jackson Jr.
"Yeah I've seen a little bit about that," Jackson said with a laugh. "He's definitely comparable but maybe not quite a Vincent Jackson just yet."
When asked what he would tell Pittman Jr. about Rivers and how to establish a good relationship with the veteran signal-caller, Jackson had the perfect answer. He didn't refer to study habits or how to deal with Rivers' awkward yet clean on-field trash talk. He said Pittman Jr. cannot let Rivers overthrow him.
"Oh man," Jackson responded. "I would say just run as fast as you can. Philip is going to throw a bomb. He knows how to bomb it every single time, so just run."
Pittman Jr. broke out in a big way during his senior season in L.A., as he caught 101 passes for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games. At 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, he has great size and will have the ability to make an impact in his rookie season with Rivers throwing him the football. He also has pro football in his blood, as he's the son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back and Super Bowl champion Michael Pittman.
Rivers is known for his long ball, so Pittman Jr. should heed the former wideout's advice. Jackson spent seven seasons with Rivers in San Diego, and actually had two of his best years thanks to the connection he and his quarterback shared. In 2009, Jackson caught 68 passes for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns, and in 2011, he recorded 60 catches for 1,106 yards and another nine touchdowns. Jackson made the Pro Bowl in both of those years.
In his 12 NFL seasons, Jackson caught 540 passes for 9,080 yards and 57 touchdowns. He was a home-run hitter, and when he retired in 2018, Jackson and DeSean Jackson were the only two players whose careers began in the 2000s to catch at least 500 passes and average at least 16 yards per catch, per ESPN. Pittman Jr. averaged 14.7 yards per catch during his four seasons at USC, so maybe Rivers does have somewhat of a Vincent Jackson to throw to once again.
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