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Camp Competition: Tight Ends

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Picture Source: Indianapolis Star

Mike Chappelle of The Sporting News (and sometimes a writer for the Indy Star), analyzes the Colts in his team report:

Look for spirited competition among the tight ends when training camp opens in late July. Dallas Clark is perched solidly atop the depth chart, but Bryan Fletcher, Ben Utecht and Ben Hartsock will lead the battle for the No. 2 and No. 3 roles.
Clark is the starter, and he's a stud. When the Colts use him effectively, he can flat out dominate a game. His playoff game against Denver in 2004 (6 catches, 112 yards, TD) and his game last year against the Bengals (6 catches, 125 yards, TD) are just a few examples of how explosive he is.

Bryan Fletcher worked as the second TE most of last year in the Colts' base two TE system. The reason for this is opening day starter Ben Utecht injured his ribs early in the season after his impressive game against the Ravens in week one. Fletcher will be hard to depose as the number two TE, but Utecht is a very intriguing player.

Utecht is a 6'6'' 250 TE with great hands and very good speed, especially for someone his size. He was signed as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2004 after a very good senior year. In fact, coming out of college, he and Kellen Winslow Jr. were the two highest projected TEs in the draft. However, he had a sports hernia entering the draft, and his stock fell faster than Keith Richards from a tree. The Colts signed him as an undrafted rookie, and let him sit for a year while he healed up from surgery. This season, Utecht claims he is healthy for the first time in two years.

If he's healthy, Utecht will replace Fletcher as the second TE. Both Fletcher and Utecht are very good players, and competition between them will only make them better.

So, where does that leave 2004 3rd round pick Ben Hartstock? Chappelle answers:

It might be a make-or-break training camp for Hartsock. The 2004 third-round draft pick has yet to make a difference with only six receptions in two seasons...
"Make-or-break" is an understatement. Hartstock is done as a Colt. Unless he goes out there and lights the preseason stage on fire, he'll be a cutdown casualty. Last season, the Colts carried four TEs into the season, and two of them were hurt during the year (Clark and Utecht). Despite this, Hartstock never saw the field.

Side note: Justin Snow is listed on the roster as a TE, but he is really a long snapper for special teams. I have yet to see him ever lineup and play on offense.