With new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton now running the show, the Colts are in the middle of a metamorphosis from the downfield, big-play system that was utilized by former coordinator Bruce Arians to more of a West Coast scheme that will look to make more use of the short, controlled passing game.
The key will be Hamilton finding more ways to maximize Hilton's speed in the open field. Speed is the biggest threat Hilton poses to NFL defenses.
Hamilton can use the threat of that speed to first create room for other targets. By exploiting Hilton's vertical quickness on the outside, Hamilton can open up the Colts' underneath passing game.
A play from Week 9 against the Miami Dolphins shows how that dynamic can work this season.
Hilton is in the slot in a four-receiver set. He will attack the seam on a deep route, and that will take coverage away from tight end Dwayne Allen over the middle.
The threat of Hilton's speed draws the free safety over the top of his vertical route. That leaves Allen free underneath to complete a 22-yard reception.
Using Hilton's threat on the outside to free others underneath will be vital to a more balanced passing attack. According to Craig Kelley of Colts.com, balance is essential to Hamilton's offense:
Hamilton oversaw a Stanford passing attack that completed 71.2 and 60.2 percent of its passes over the last two seasons.
Hamilton’s aim to spread the ball across the passing attack created the desired balance among the units. Wide receivers combined for 206 receptions, 2,585 yards and 15 touchdowns from 2011-12, while tight ends had 179 receptions for 2,647 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Of course, Hilton's speed will be more than just a decoy in the new scheme. His quickness can dictate the type of coverage the Colts face.
In Week 11 against the New England Patriots, Hilton was able to take advantage of outside coverage in the red zone.
Hilton will attack the Patriots secondary by running an out-and-up route. He will initially attack the outside, before breaking to the inside.
Because of Hilton's speed, New England cornerback Aqib Talib is forced to play with outside leverage.
With Talib trailing on the outside, Hilton makes a sharp break to the inside. The result is an easy 14-yard touchdown catch.
Defensive tendencies to take the outside away from Hilton can be an advantage to Hamilton. He can exploit outside techniques by designing more in-breaking hook and slant patterns.
The touchdown against the Patriots was set up by a well-executed play fake from quarterback Andrew Luck.
This is something Hamilton is keen on using more often this season (via Kelley's report):
We’re going to find ways to have balance in our attack. We have to be able to run the football. Running the football is going to set up our passing game, set up our play-action passing game.
It’s going to give us an opportunity to create one-on-one matchups on the perimeter for Reggie [Wayne] and T.Y. [Hilton] and [Darrius] Heyward-Bey and, of course, our tight ends.
By combining the play-action pass with the respect defenses give to Hilton's speed, the Colts will be able to attack deep from any personnel grouping.
They used Hilton in this way against the Dolphins in their Week 9 matchup.
The Colts are showing a run-heavy look with a familiar West Coast personnel grouping. They are fielding two running backs and one tight end.
However, they are aligning in an offset-I formation. This alignment was common when Hamilton directed the offense at Stanford. From this look the Colts will set up a high-low concept designed to free Hilton deep.
After the snap, Hilton's route attacks the defense deep, shown in yellow. Fellow wide receiver Reggie Wayne runs a shallow crossing pattern underneath, shown in red.
Wayne's route draws the attention of one safety. That leaves Hilton to beat the vertical coverage and complete a 36-yard touchdown catch.
High-low concepts like this are a signature of the West Coast scheme. Using Hilton's quickness vertically can allow Hamilton to use similar designs to retain the big-play element of the Colts passing game.
Hilton will play a vital role in Hamilton's offense. His presence will maintain the vertical threat in the Colts offense. That threat will also help Hamilton scheme more openings for the intermediate-range passing game.
Hilton can be the key to a more varied and efficient passing attack in 2013.
All screen shots courtesy of CBS Sports and NFL.com Gamepass