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Colts tight end room brings perfect amount of versatility to Frank Reich’s offense

NFL: NOV 11 Jaguars at Colts Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As each NFL team has now cut down to their initial 53-man rosters for the 2019 season, the Indianapolis Colts look to have one of the better rosters, top to bottom, that they’ve had in recent memory.

The retirement of Andrew Luck obviously puts a damper on the hopes and expectations for this squad, nearly a full season of experience from the 2017 season, and continued development under Frank Reich should allow us to see the best Jacoby Brissett has to offer this team. There are obvious areas throughout this roster, especially offensively, where the team is set up well for success.

The offensive line is far better than that of which Brissett worked behind two seasons ago, the running back room is more experienced and pretty versatile, and he has a far more explosive receiving corps to use as weapons in putting points on the board.

But, there’s another position group, that has been widely spoken about lately due to roster cuts, that may end up being the most important as Brissett navigates his way through the play-calls and reads within each play set forth by Reich. The tight end grouping may just be great for him now, but it could actually be setting him up for the future as well.

One of the harder decisions Reich and Chris Ballard were forced to make was between rookie UDFA Hale Hentges and the long and athletic Ross Travis for that ever important number four spot in the tight end room.

With Eric Ebron looking to come back and double down on his career 2018 season, the Colts also feature another superior athletic-type body in Mo Alie-Cox who has shown that he can split out away from the line and become a weapon, as well as being tight to the line and becoming a very reliable blocker through his transition between basketball in college and tight end in the NFL.

Alie-Cox gives the offense more speed than your typical well-rounded tight end and adds a receiver for Brissett to throw some 50-50 balls up to. Naturally, Jack Doyle isn’t as speedy, but he is an excellent route runner, can create separation, and is as reliable a pass catcher you’ll see at the position.

Doyle’s ability to assist in the running game with his blocking has been such a pertinent part of the team’s success with him on the field, that you simply can’t ignore it. His connection with Luck was a large part of him coming into the NFL as an UDFA and making it with the Colts after he was claimed off waivers from the Tennessee Titans.

Strangely enough, another tight end on the Colts roster is coming in to the league under similar circumstances, and he bares a strong resemblance to Doyle in so many ways. Hale Hentges won the battle between he and Travis, and you have to presume that Ballard and Reich see some similarities in playing style to that of Doyle as well.

Not only is Hentges a very good blocker already, but he’s shown that he can be an effective pass catcher as well, in spite of his lack of receptions coming out of Alabama. Doyle was far more accomplished as a receiving option coming out of Western Kentucky, but Hentges made the most of his opportunities as he hauled in 6 touchdowns on only 11 receptions over the past two seasons.

Additionally, the two are similar in their measurables, not necessarily built the same, especially when comparing the two in their rookie years.

NFL: Preseason-Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

As Reich may see Hentges being the right ingredient to make this year’s tight end group the best it can be for the 2019 season, it’s reasonable to presume that he sees Hentges as the heir to Doyle, becoming a similar security blanket for Brissett and his future, as he begins his time in the league as a starter.

Simple probability tells us that Doyle won’t be around much longer, and an instant connection between Hentges and Brissett may have been something the staff took note of.

Hentges on Brissett:

“Someone who reached out from the very beginning and said, ‘How you doing? How’s the transition going?’ Stuff like that. That kind of leadership that he showed there and from there I knew that he had the ability to lead this team.”

Any way you look at it, the Colts have a very capable group of tight ends who can all make plays, and with the exception of Ebron, can become instrumental in springing a running back for a big gain.

As the necessities of having some dual-threat options (if you will) have become ever present in the league today, this group’s perfect mix has ultimately resulted in the Colts putting together a very deep unit, and a very dangerous one that will keep their opponents guessing throughout the season.