The Indianapolis Colts lost a major piece of their offense this offseason when veteran tight end Jack Doyle decided to retire after nine seasons with the team. While his impact wasn't always seen on the stat sheet, the former Pro Bowler will sorely be missed in this offensive gameplan.
When it comes to Doyle and what he did for the offense, his impact (on the field) can be summarized into two major points:
1. He was the key run blocking tight end in an offense that asks a lot out of that position. Doyle performed this role at an elite level and was one of the better run blockers in the NFL at tight end.
2. He was the offense's security blanket on passing downs. His knowledge of how to read zone coverage and how to attack leverage is something that is hard to replace with younger players.
Replacing just one of these attributes would be tough for an offense, but both? It is certainly a tall task. In today's film room, I break down exactly how the Colts can fill this massive void in their offense.
The Run Game
Doyle's impact in the run game is certainly something that couldn't be overlooked during his time with the Colts. Not only was he an outstanding blocker at the point of attack, but he was also a key cog on misdirection and trap runs as well.
He excelled in just about any assignment thrown his way in the run game. While he doesn't deserve the full credit for the Colts' success up front over the past few years, Jack Doyle was a massive reason why the Colts have been a strong rushing team since 2018.
When looking at possible replacements on the roster, there really is only one choice. Mo Alie-Cox is a veteran tight end entering his fifth year with the Colts (fresh off of a new three-year contract extension). Alie-Cox may not be as effective as a blocker, but he can certainly hold his own in the run game.
Nate Tice of the Athletic said that Alie-Cox "has the most effective ugly blocks in the league" yesterday, and it is the perfect way to describe his style in the run game. His technique is terrible, yet he is so powerful that he just gets it done.
It may always look too nonchalant to him, but Alie-Cox is a strong blocker that can provide a positive impact in the run game. He may not be quite at the level of Doyle, but his ability in this regard should make him an easy candidate for more run blocking snaps.
The Passing Game
Despite only averaging 329 yards receiving a season under Frank Reich, Doyle's ability in the passing game will certainly be missed in 2022. Reich's system is heavily reliant on having a cerebral tight end that can read zone coverage (think Zach Ertz in Philadelphia), and that was essentially Doyle's role over the past few seasons.
He may have only seen underneath targets, but in Reich's middle of the field passing attack having a player like Doyle is necessary. The Colts don't have to replace his vacated receiving yards in the passing game, they have to replace that underneath, safety blanket role.
For this role, the team has added quite a few younger players over the past two offseasons. Rookie Jelani Woods was selected in the third round, and the team has sky-high expectations for the young player. Rookie Andrew Ogletree was also drafted in the 2022 class (6th round) and the team is plenty excited about his ability as well.
For me, though, I see the most obvious contender for this role being second-year tight end Kylen Granson. It takes time for tight ends to develop in the NFL, and this role needs somebody that has an understanding of how to read coverages in the underneath game.
Granson was able to learn the offense last year as a rookie, and he was able to see how Doyle performed in this role. He also had a very similar type of role at SMU during his college years. He may not have the same potential as a player like Jelani Woods, but he is much more suited for this type of passing assignment in 2022.
PLUS, I don't want to slight Granson's upside in any way here. He is a smooth mover that can create separation against man coverage. If he can learn/has learned how to attack leverage and find those soft spots in zone, he should be able to thrive in a shorter passing game role.
The Bottom Line
One of the more fascinating storylines heading into Training Camp will be how the Colts approach the tight end position. The team has four players that they really like, with only one of them (Alie-Cox) guaranteed to have a significant role in 2022. The snaps are truly up for grabs in camp.
My best bet going into camp is that Alie-Cox takes on more of a blocking role while Granson sees more time in obvious passing situations. Woods will certainly get some snaps (especially on vertical pass plays) and I wouldn't count Ogletree out by any means.
The only prediction I feel truly confident in is that the team will carry four tight ends into the 2022 season. The Colts like the four players they have and as long as the offseason goes smoothly, they should have an interesting young group to play with in 2022.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.