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Competition ongoing for Colts' number three tight end spot

NFL: Preseason-Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

For the past four years, the Colts tight end position hasn't been one that prompted many questions, as Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen provided a very nice top two and Jack Doyle recently has been a good number three.

This offseason, things are different. Fleener left in free agency to sign a big contract with the New Orleans Saints, while Allen was rewarded with a big contract from the Colts. Allen is back, and Jack Doyle is too, but after those two guys the depth at the position is entirely up for grabs.

There's Erik Swoope, the former collegiate basketball player who the Colts have been working with the past two seasons. There's Darion Griswold, the undrafted free agent out of Arkansas State. And there's Mike Miller, the undrafted tight end out of nearby Taylor University. Those three are the players currently at the position behind the top two who are competing for the third tight end spot, and right now it's anybody's guess who will wind up winning it.

“Those guys are working hard," head coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday. "You obviously know Dwayne (Allen) and Jack (Doyle) are the one-two combination right now. (Erik) Swoope continues to grow and develop. Obviously training camp – this will be a huge training camp for Erik. The young guys, (Darion) Griswold and Mike Miller, are doing a nice job. We’ve got a couple young guys that are making some plays out there. It’s not too big for them. They’re athletic guys. We had a red area day yesterday and ‘Big’ Mike made a few plays down there. He’s got stuff that you can’t coach as far as size and length. It was good to see that and those guys make some plays down there."

Griswold (6-5, 264 pounds), is a player we mentioned as one to keep an eye on this offseason, as he was well-rounded player during his time at Arkansas State. Miller (6-6, 250 pounds) is making the adjustment from a small school to the NFL level but has great size and is a talented receiver. While both of them have a real shot to make the roster as the number three tight end, the most interesting candidate is Erik Swoope (6-5, 243 pounds) based on the fact that the Colts have been working with him for the past few years. He played in one game last year but has spent most of the time on the Colts practice squad adjusting to the NFL, and Chuck Pagano has seen improvement.

“He’s made tremendous strides basically every day since he’s been here," Pagano said on Tuesday. "Obviously that piece of clay and that body we saw early on is much different now. Again, we’re in shorts. We’re running around in just helmets is all. The heavy lifting that has to come from that position that they have to do as an end line blocker – some of that stuff where you do it whether it’s out of the backfield or on the line of scrimmage, move tight end stuff, we’re going to find out a lot more obviously going into this training camp once we get the pads on. He’s doing a good job. He doesn’t look like a guy that’s never played and a basketballer that’s playing football for the first time.”

Swoope may look the part, but he's got to show it on the field - something that he hasn't done in the past few years. This offseason is a huge one for him, as the number three tight end spot is open. Swoope would seem to be the favorite because of his familiarity with the Colts, but it's still far from certain. If he doesn't impress, both Darion Griswold and Mike Miller are talented players with good size that will be waiting to seize the opportunity.

The Colts are tentatively set at tight end with Dwayne Allen as the starter, Jack Doyle as the number two, and then either Erik Swoope, Darion Griswold, or Mike Miller as the number three. But that number three spot - which could become much more important if Allen misses games like he has in each of the past three seasons - is still up in the air, and the Colts will be hoping that one of the players steps up and takes advantage of it.