When head coach Frank Reich arrived in Indianapolis, he made it very clear that the Colts offense planned to feature players who could play multiple roles and move all over the field. The idea was to feature athletes with traits that would translate to multiple positions and who could force mismatches on defenses who wouldn’t have enough pieces or enough time to come up with answers to the hybrid nature of Reich’s system. Two players in particular who Chris Ballard brought into the fold this offseason standout as hybrid options who can be featured all over the field.
Veteran tight end Eric Ebron is one of the most athletic pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. He is not going to earn any awards as a blocker but he has the speed to stretch the defense lined as a wideout or inside to pressure the seams. To this point in OTA’s, Ebron has lined up all over the the field and has received a great deal of attention in the passing game. Stephen Holder pointed out his observations about Ebron’s abilities during Wednesday’s practice.
“The deep crosses Ebron ran on Wednesday have the potential to become huge plays. With Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni emphasizing matchups, the Colts can potentially exploit some opportunities with Ebron in this offense.”
There is every reason to expect that Ebron will be a big-time focus for Reich. His history of working with athletic tight ends like Zach Ertz, Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark should give some indication of what fans can expect and OTA’s have only supported his continued reliance on the position moving forward.
The other obvious hybrid offensive threat to join the team this offseason was fourth-round rookie running back Nyheim Hines. It is widely known by fans at this point that Hines played only one season as the primary running back for NC State after being used primarily as a receiver early in his career. He has blazing speed, excellent hands for a running back, is familiar with receiver and running back route trees, and is about as dangerous of a threat in the open field as you could want.
Reich is wasting no time installing Hines into his offense and getting his fingerprints all over what they want to do. Andrew Walker of Colts.com observed that no player on offense got more attention than Hines on the second day of OTA’s.
“Speaking of Hines, the rookie running back was all over the place for the Colts’ offense, too. Just like during rookie minicamp, Hines was in possession of the ball perhaps more than any other player, and he was also lined up as a wide receiver out wide at times, showing off his versatility.”
It should come as little surprise that Hines is also getting the opportunity to take reps as a returner. He is working with Chester Rogers, James Wright, Josh Ferguson, Jordan Wilkins and T.Y. Hilton in the return game. Some of these players could very easily find their way out of those responsibilities, particularly if they are projected starters, but Hines, Wright, Ferguson and Wilkins will likely get a lot of chances to standout in this area as the team considers deeper roster decisions.
No matter how the return game shakes out, early indications suggest that Colts fans had better be ready to see a very different looking offense. Hilton and Jack Doyle will continue to be featured, and Marlon Mack will be given a chance to take over as the team’s starting running back, but Ebron and Hines will definitely be heavily featured.
Let’s hope all of these pieces will also be the beneficiary of a healthy Andrew Luck. If so, this could be an exciting offense to watch on Sundays.