The Colts’ tight end group may be one of the best in the NFL. Eric Ebron broke out last year as he totaled 14 touchdowns on the season and earned a trip to his first career Pro Bowl. Jack Doyle, a former Pro Bowler, is as steady as they come in terms of a pass catcher and is one of the better run blockers in the NFL for tight ends. At the bottom of the roster, the uber athletic Ross Travis battles it out with Hale “Jack Doyle 2.0” Hentges for the TE4 spot on the team. The biggest wildcard in the group though is former undrafted free agent and VCU basketball player Mo Alie-Cox.
Alie-Cox was a bit of an unknown before being forced up to the roster early last season due to injuries. Although it was a bit early in his development to be called up, he made the most of his opportunities. He had seven catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns while also filling in as a solid run blocker in Jack Doyle’s absence.
So what is the appeal in Alie-Cox? Well first off, his size and basketball background make him a very intriguing option as a receiver. The main reason though that the Colts are so high on him is his run blocking. I’ve been told that Ballard and others in the organization believe that he has the potential to be one of the best run blocking tight ends in all of football. So can he be that good? Lets look at some film from last season and see if he has what it takes to be a dominant run blocking tight end.
The strength is so apparent with Alie-Cox the second you turn on the film. Here he is tasked with a fairly difficult down block on a gap shooting defensive end. To make things even more difficult, the defensive end he has to block is quick and savvy veteran Lorenzo Alexander. Alie-Cox is able to get his hands on Alexander and drive him down the line. Although Alexander does win inside initially, Alie-Cox is able to work the defensive lineman down the line and outside of the play with his top notch strength. I would like to see a base and stronger leg drive by him on this play but the raw ability to move a defensive end like this is very intriguing.
With almost every clip I’m going to post in this article, there are positives with a few negatives sprinkled in. For instance on this play, the strength yet again is on full display and he is able to drive the much smaller cornerback out of the play. I also love how he constantly is moving his feet and how he angles his body in order to make life harder for the player he is blocking. Those positives are great but again I’d like to see him lower in his leg drive, get his hands inside on the corner, and hold the block for the duration of the play. The overall play is a plus as he takes the corner completely out of the play but there are some coaching points on this rep that he can improve on for the future.
The most positive part of his early development as a run blocker though is the way he angles his body when he is at the point of attack. This is so vital for runners as it opens up lanes on the backside of their blockers and creates holes that are much easier to see. Here he is tasked with blocking former Colt Jerry Hughes who is a dominant defensive end. Alie-Cox is able to get his hands on the talented defensive end and hold up at the point of attack with his strength. Notice though the subtle flipping of his hips as Marlon Mack comes down the line. This subtle move makes it much more difficult for Hughes to get around his and make a play. Great block by Alie-Cox and this was a very positive rep against a very good defensive end.
As the season progressed, the growth was evident in Alie-Cox. This reach block on a quick defensive end is insanely difficult yet he is able to get into great position and block off the speed rush. Defensive end Kamalei Correa reads the snap and crosses the face of Alie-Cox as the ball is snapped. Alie-Cox is forced to jump inside quickly in order to engage the speedy rusher. He is able to beat Correa to the spot and not only stop his momentum but actually flip his hips and shield off the backside pursuit from getting to his running back. Great reach block that shows off a ton of development from the young tight end.
My concerns with him did still linger a bit late in the season. Again, this play is a “win” as he is able to kick out the safety and open the lane for the running back. My concern still lies though in his upright posture, outside hand placement, and lack of finishing the play. I love the strength to maul and overwhelm a safety of Kevin Byard’s caliber but I want to see more on this play. Get low and continue driving the block until the defender is on the ground. Establishing a bit of a mean streak and a bit better technique in Alie-Cox really could make him an elite run blocking tight end in this league.
Again, it is the overall positive plays with little coaching points in Alie-Cox’s film. This down block on defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is impressive as he does his job and opens up the hole on the right side. His strength again is stellar as there are very few tight ends that knock Lawrence off balance like this. The problem, yet again, though is finishing the block. He has Lawrence off balance on the backside of the play. Finish the play and establish a mean streak by burying the defender. It is the little things like this that I’m sure the Colts’ coaching staff is harping on with him and where they want to see improvement in his game.
These next two clips showcase how he really could be utilized in this offense as a blocker. When Jack Doyle went down, the Colts were a bit tentative in how they used Alie-Cox as a run blocker. They basically used him as an extra offensive lineman whereas Doyle was more used as a pivotal chess piece on whams, pulls, and sweep plays. These next two clips though show him in more of that role and show him as effective as that chess piece.
Here he is the lead blocker on two “wham” plays near the goal line. A wham play essentially is a play where a tight end or lineman pulls across the formation to take on an unblocked backside defender. The key part to these plays are timing and the pulling player making the block on the backside. If both of those things are accomplished, the play is usually a success. Doyle was typically the player who pulled on these plays earlier in the year but the Colts allowing Alie-Cox to be the puller shows great trust in the young tight end. He does an excellent job on both of these plays as he seals the backside and paves the way for the score.
Mo Alie-Cox has a ton of support in the Colts’ organization and for good reason. He is a big body player who came to the team as a converted basketball player project. Unlike most basketball converts, he is insanely strong and has all the makings to be a stout blocker in the NFL. He is already very advanced in terms of strength, hip movement, mobility, and timing/control of his blocks. Those raw abilities will go a long way for him as he develops.
For me though, I’d like to see him progress in the little aspects of blocking before I fully jump on the hype train. For a player with his strength, I’d love to see him bury more defenders and finish more plays. He plays too upright, keeps his hands a bit too far outside his defender’s frame, and doesn’t block until the whistle enough. The best part about those weaknesses? He was already an outstanding run blocker in spite of them in 2018.
Chris Ballard and company are very high on the talent of Alie-Cox and after looking at the film, I can completely see why. His intangibles and upside are insane and I do believe the Colts when they think he can be a top tier run blocker. Once the coaches get him in the film room and improve these mental flaws, he will be great. I still have to see what the coaching staff has done with him this offseason before I fully jump on the hype train but he has all the makings to be a very good tight end in this league. If his development continues the way it has so far, there is no reason he doesn’t reach that potential.