One of the main staples of a Frank Reich-led offense is the usage of the tight end position.
From his days in Philadelphia, the Indianapolis Colts head coach has always featured tight ends in his system and they have been a crucial part of his team’s success.
This was no different when he came to Indianapolis in 2018, as former Colts’ tight end Eric Ebron enjoyed a career year in Reich’s system with 14 total touchdowns and a trip to the Pro Bowl.
As the 2021 season approaches, let’s take a look at the tight end group that Reich and new Colts quarterback Carson Wentz will be relying on to make a big impact.
There’s been an acronym floated around the locker room for quite a few years now: “WWJD.”
“What Would Jack Do?” is a testament to how Jack Doyle has carried himself his entire career. From being an undrafted free agent in 2013 to being cut by the Tennessee Titans after his first training camp and claimed off waivers by the Colts, Doyle has always been the ultimate professional. His hard work, dedication to the game, and reliability have led him to a solid eight-year career that includes two trips to the Pro Bowl in 2017 and 2019.
As Doyle enters Year Nine, the 31-year-old looks to have a bounce-back season. The 2020 season was not the best for Doyle, as he only recorded 23 catches for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns. His 33 targets were the same number of targets that he received in 2018 when he only played six games.
Whether it was the style of play from then-quarterback Philip Rivers or the play calling of Reich, Doyle did not get his number called as frequently in 2020. With Wentz now under center for the Colts, and Doyle being the security blanket for this offense, we very well could see more targets for him this year.
Doyle has never been the type of threat to make chunk plays down the field. In fact, the longest catch of his career is only 28 yards. However, Doyle looks to be the starter at tight end for the Colts once again and provide the steady hands and reliability for Wentz that he has provided for all of the other Colts’ quarterbacks over the last eight years.
Since he was signed to the Colts’ active roster in 2018, Mo Alie-Cox has been a very intriguing player. Standing at 6’5”, 267, Alie-Cox came from VCU as a basketball player, having last played organized football as a freshman in high school. Now after three years on the roster, Alie-he looks to establish himself as a legitimate threat for the Colts.
Alie-Cox has been used sparingly over the past few seasons. While known for a few highlight plays, including his one-handed touchdown grab against the Raiders in 2018, he had never had an opportunity to be the lead tight end for the Colts. Instead, he had been used in blocking situations or as a contributor on special teams.
When Doyle went down with an injury after Week 1 last year, and the other Colts’ tight end Trey Burton out with an injury himself, it was time for Alie-Cox to finally get a shot at being TE1. He certainly did not disappoint.
Alie-Cox had 5 catches for 111 yards against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2, followed by 3 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown in Week 3 against the New York Jets. This led him to the best season of his young career, with 31 catches for 394 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Colts should seriously look at giving Alie-Cox a shot to prove himself as a legitimate tight end in this league. While he started his career incredibly raw, he has shown steady improvement each year and has displayed flashes of being a major threat against opposing defenses.
Alie-Cox has consistently proven to be a tremendous blocker in the run game. By giving him more opportunities in the passing game, it permits him to use his huge frame to make plays downfield and bring another explosive element to this offense.
Hopefully, we will see Alie-Cox featured in a bigger role moving forward.
Since the departure of Ebron after 2019, the Colts’ have been searching for an athletic “F” tight end that will stretch the field and make plays in the passing game. Burton joined the team last year on a one-year deal but did not prove to be the vertical threat the Colts had hoped. For 2021 and beyond, the Colts hope they have found that mismatch at tight end in Kylen Granson.
Granson, a fourth-round pick out of SMU, showed that he could be a nightmare for defenses in college. In his last two years at SMU, Granson totaled 78 catches for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns. Averaging 16.1 yards per catch, he created explosive plays quite often for the Mustangs’ offense.
At 6’2”, 242, Granson may not be the biggest tight end but what he lacks in size he makes up in athleticism. He has a 36.5” vertical leap that helps him win jump balls over defenders and great acceleration that stresses linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field. He can also be placed in multiple positions throughout the offense, as his background as a wide receiver allows him to play outside, in the slot, in-line along the line of scrimmage, and even in the backfield.
Granson also possesses a very high football IQ. He was recruited by Harvard out of high school, and SMU coaches praised his knack for processing information very quickly. This should allow the rookie to grasp the Colts’ offense with ease and give him the ability to contribute from day one.
The Colts, and Reich in particular, are very excited about what Granson can bring to this team. Do not be surprised if the rookie has an impact very early and the Colts use him as a weapon all over the field.
Have thoughts on the Colts' tight ends ahead of the start of the 2021 season? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!
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