INDIANAPOLIS — Michael Pittman Jr. is goals-driven. Has been, always will be.
Every season, he compiles his personal to-do list: receptions, yards, touchdowns. Sometimes, he’ll share his projections. Other times, he’s kept them to himself.
As Pittman enters his fourth season as the Indianapolis Colts’ go-to wideout, he’s focused on one goal.
Be there for rookie Anthony Richardson.
“Being a quarterback is probably the hardest job in sports,’’ Pittman said, “and for him being so young, I don’t want to make it more difficult.
“I want to make his job easy, so any way I can do that and take on more responsibility, I’m going to try and do that.’’
That’s a role Pittman has handled since being the Colts’ top pick in the 2020 draft: round 2, No. 34 overall, seven slots ahead of Jonathan Taylor.
While dealing with three different starting quarterbacks — Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan — he’s generated 227 receptions, 2,510 yards and 11 touchdowns on 331 targets. All are team bests by a wide margin.
Pittman has spent the offseason and preseason getting in sync with his fourth starting QB — Richardson. That included a pitch-and-catch weekend at the University of Miami after the end of the Colts’ offseason work in mid-June and before training camp in late July.
“I’ve seen him come along so fast,’’ Pittman said. “I’m excited to see how he does and what he does, and I think it’s going to be good.’’
The Colts have been in this situation before. In 2012, they placed their future in Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick. Then-general manager Ryan Grigson made certain to give his rookie quarterback a reliable receiving option. He re-signed Reggie Wayne.
A 12-year vet at the time, Wayne understood he was assuming a dual role of top receiver/security blanket.
“Sheesh, I’m on the field with Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Vick Ballard, That’s all rookies, right?’’ Wayne said in April as he headed into his second season as receivers coach. “I know when I first met Luck, I said, ‘Listen, you don’t worry about offense, I’ll handle that until you’re ready. I’ll make sure everybody’s in place. You just be quarterback.’
“When he came in, he was (following) Peyton Manning. I don’t know if there’s any more pressure than that. I told him, ‘I’m going to hold it down until you feel like you’re ready, and when you’re ready, I’ll sit in the passenger seat and buckle up.’’’
Wayne undoubtedly has shared that story in the receivers room and found receptive ears with Pittman.
“I’m just trying to lift weight off (Richardson) because he’s got the weight of the world on him,’’ he said. “He’s a rookie quarterback and everybody is coming out to see him against a very vet team.’’
Basically, do your job to the fullest.
“It’s more about being in the right spot at the right time for him,’’ Pittman said.
“Just being on my details and then sometimes, I’ve just got to make a play. It may not be the best pass, it may not be the best route. I don’t run perfect routes 100% of the time. Sometimes, I gotta make him right, sometimes he’ll make me right.
“Just let him know, ‘Hey, send it my way, and if I don’t catch it, then no one’s gonna catch it. That gives him confidence to throw up those 50-50 balls. Just let him know that I’m that guy for him.’’
No one should casually dismiss the value of the quarterback-receiver connection, especially when that quarterback is about to make his NFL debut.
“Oh, I think it’s everything,’’ coach Shane Steichen said Friday. “The trust factor with the quarterback, receivers, tight ends and running backs in the pass game is huge.’’
Running back Zack Moss, who suffered a broken right forearm early in training camp, was limited in practice for a third straight day and is questionable for Sunday’s opener against Jacksonville.
If Moss is held out of the game, the only healthy running backs on the roster would be Deon Jackson and rookie Evan Hull. The team likely would elevate either Jake Funk or Jason Huntley from the practice squad.
Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner was limited with a forearm injury, but has no designation. That generally means a player is expected to play.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter/X at @mchappell51.