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Colts will need Jack Doyle to step up at tight end in Dwayne Allen’s absence

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most underrated move that the Indianapolis Colts made this offseason was to bring back tight end Jack Doyle on a restricted free agent tender.

It was a minor move on a minor contract, but it’s paying huge dividends for the Colts. Doyle had carved out a nice role as the team’s third tight end over the past few years behind Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, but this year the Colts had to choose which of those guys to re-sign. They choose Allen, and they brought Doyle back as the backup. That role, as we talked about during training camp, is very important considering Allen’s injury history, and now he’s hurt again.

Allen is week-to-week with an ankle injury, and considering the fact that he’s hobbling around on crutches, he’ll probably be out for a significant period of time. That means that for the time being, Jack Doyle is the starting tight end for the Indianapolis. And with the backups being Erik Swoope and Chase Coffman, that signing of Doyle this offseason looks even better.

Through six games, Doyle has caught 20 passes (on 23 targets) for 204 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 10.2 yards per catch. He’s second on the team in receptions (but just fifth in targets), third in yards, and tied for first in touchdowns. He has really stepped up, and it’s been remarkable to see his career progression. A local boy (he went to Cathedral High School), he played collegiately at Western Kentucky and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans in 2013. They cut him after the preseason, however, and the Colts claimed him off of waivers. Since then, Doyle has continued to develop into a good player, and on Sunday he’ll be the team’s starting tight end as they face the Titans.

“It’s remarkable when you come to work every single day and you work at your craft and you are a great pro and a great teammate,” head coach Chuck Pagano said on Wednesday regarding Doyle. “It’s a great story. It’s a testament to him as a human being and a selfless guy and a workaholic. You check off all the boxes – reliability, accountability, dependability, check them all off. The guy just goes out and produces because he comes to work every single day with one thing in mind and that’s to get better. He has no other agenda, zero. Winning and getting better.”

For as reliable as Doyle has been for the Colts, however, they’ll certainly miss Dwayne Allen. Allen has also been having a good season, but as has been the case, unfortunately he couldn’t stay healthy. We already saw Allen’s injury change some things for the Colts - as offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said that they were limited in some of their options on that fourth down play last week because Allen was out - and they will need to find a way to replace him moving forward as well.

“With preparation you can go into it with a different guy,” Chudzinski said Thursday. “You are only allowed so many guys up on a game day. At some positions, and that happened to us at receiver and at tight end in that last game, if you lose x-amount of guys [then] you are out of personnel groups, there are certain personnel groups you just can’t run. The plays and the packages that you have in those personnel groups are out the window for that particular game. Going into a game, we signed another tight end, Chase Coffman is on the roster. We can use other guys in those positions and so forth. I don’t want to get into too much detail but you can go into it planned out of how you are going to do that and you have contingencies for all those possibilities that happen within the game.”

We’ll see the Colts have to try to adjust for the loss of Allen this week and for the next few weeks, but the fact that they have Jack Doyle to step in at least makes the loss of Allen more manageable.