Over the next few weeks, we will be looking position by position at the current talent on the Indianapolis Colts' roster and previewing the battles that may take place in training camp. Today we look at the tight ends.
In an offseason of much change in Indianapolis, perhaps no unit underwent as drastic of a change as the tight end unit.
Last season, four tight ends caught passes for the Colts. Between Dallas Clark, Jacob Tamme, Brody Eldridge, and Anthony Hill, the tight end position contributed 64 catches for 590 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2011. Over their careers, those four combined for 536 catches, 5,845 yards and 51 touchdowns over 214 games played.
All four are now gone.
A unit that used to feature the incredible talents of Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme currently has zero receptions combined between six tight ends. Of all the positions on the Colts, this one is the least experienced.
Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, and Dominique Jones are all rookies, while Kyle Miller and Andre Smith are entering their second years. Justin Snow is officially a tight end but will absolutely not be used as a tight end - he is the Colts' longtime long snapper, and a very good one at that (An interesting note about Justin Snow is that he is now the longest tenured Colt). While technically a tight end, he will not factor into the breakdown of the position at all.
Fleener is the projected starter and the Colts' second round draft choice. The Stanford grad is used to Andrew Luck, so he should have an edge in working with the quarterback. I would not be surprised if at times (maybe quite often) Fleener is shifted out into the slot to play as a receiver. He is the best receiving tight end the Colts have.
Allen is also projected to start, as the Colts figure to run two tight end packages quite often. The third round choice out of Clemson is probably the most complete tight end on the roster, but is still more of a pass catcher.
Jones was signed as a free agent after previously playing in the United Football League. Miller attended Mount Union, the same school that produced former Colts' wide receiver Pierre Garcon. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars last offseason, but was released before the start of the regular season. Smith was signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech last offseason and was signed by the Colts on May 15, 2012.
With the quality of depth behind Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, the two rookies will likely have to fill most of the playing time at the position.
Fleener and Allen (along with Justin Snow) are locks to make the roster. That leaves Dominique Jones, Kyle Miller, and Andre Smith as the guys competing to make the squad. With how little experience they have, it is hard to see at this time what general manager Ryan Grigson was thinking when he got rid of Brody Eldridge. While not a good player, he at least had played in NFL games before and could have provided depth. Releasing him before training camp even startsed was a very interesting move, in my opinion.
I am inclined to think that Andre Smith and Dominique Jones will make the roster, but it is more of a guess at this point. In training camp I will be very interested in seeing how they play. They will not be starting unless there is an injury, but depth is a very important part of building a championship team (as Colts' fans know too well).
How many tight ends will the Colts keep? I really don't know. I think five, if you include Justin Snow. Dominique Jones and Andre Smith are my guesses for the final roster, but once again, I really don't know.
Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen should prove to be one of the best tight end duos in the NFL. Both of them have the ability to take over a game. In fact, Fleener is not even guaranteed to be the number one tight end, as Allen was actually practicing as the first TE in minicamp. Either way, both guys will be playing a lot and they will be on the field together quite frequently as well.
The depth is the real thing to watch, however, and I look forward to watching them in training camp.
The tight end position has become one of the most important positions on a football team, and the Colts have set themselves up well for the future by drafting two very promising tight ends. It will be very exciting to watch their development this season.
PROJECTED STARTER: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen
BATTLING FOR STARTING SPOT: --
BATTLING FOR A ROSTER SPOT: Dominique Jones, Kyle Miller, Andre Smith
*JUSTIN SNOW*: the long snapper will have a spot on the team, however not as a tight end.