With teams still not able to properly access their facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is some question about exactly if and when training camp will begin, as well as what it will look like if it does. However, let’s assume that some of the early positive signs prove to hold up and we are able to resume some kind of normality. The Colts are primed to be an exciting team in 2020, and ahead of camp, we’re going to review every position group and see how they look on paper.
Today we’re going to take a look at the tight end position for the Colts and how they look heading into camp. Frank Reich has shown a desire to use tight ends in a variety of ways, and the Colts have had promise there for several seasons. How good could this group be? Let’s take a look.
The Colts top tight end and most well-rounded of the group, Jack Doyle is one of the most reliable players on the Colts offense. He has developed a mythology among Colts fans and while he has never been the most talented player on any Colts offense he has been a part of, Doyle’s quiet, team first demeanor and workman-like attitude makes him a fan favorite in Indy.
This year is likely to be another good one for Doyle. He excels as a blocking tight end, and the Colts will no doubt ask him to do so again in 2020. There are certainly better, more talented tight ends in the NFL, but there might not be many who are as well-rounded and smart as Doyle, nor as consistent.
While his blocking has been great, he is also an asset in the passing game. He knows how to find the seams in a zone and his hands are some of the most reliable out there. His career catch percentage is 73.4%, a number damaged by a down year in 2019 with Brissett consistently throwing the ball behind him. With Rivers taking over under center, expect that percentage to shoot back up.
Doyle is not a game breaker, but he is a reliable weapon who comes through when needed.
Alie-Cox’s primary usage has been as a blocker. Despite being a basketball player-turned tight end, blocking is an area Alie-Cox has stood out early in his career. As perhaps the most athletically gifted tight end on the roster, the Colts could very well attempt to utilize Cox as a pass catching tight end, which would let him have a greater impact on the offense in 2020.
With Philip Rivers dealing the football in 2020, having a big, athletic tight end who can go up for the ball could bode well for the team, and while they haven’t used him that way often, he found the end zone twice in 2018. When used in space, he also has an ability to make plays after the catch, a skill that is not in Jack Doyle’s wheelhouse.
It is unlikely that Alie-Cox is going to light the offense on fire in 2020, but if given more opportunity, he has a lot of untapped potential as a pass catcher. At minimum, his blocking ability means he will play an important role on the offense this season.
The former undrafted free agent who got his start with the Eagles is a player who made a ton of sense for the Colts. In an offseason where they let Eric Ebron go, they needed to fill out the room with a good pass catcher at the position. Burton doesn’t have anything like Ebron’s raw ability, but had one of his best seasons working under Frank Reich in Philly the year they won the Super Bowl.
He’ll bring a veteran presence, a knowledge of the scheme the Colts want to run, and the ability to make plays. Best of all, he will do all that for a bargain basement price of $910,000 on a one-year deal. If he bounces back from an injury plagued season to have a big 2020, the Colts will have gotten a great deal. If he doesn’t, they can move on pretty painlessly.
Okay, so Nix is not a tight end. But for all intents and purposes, he is the guy most likely to fill out the role as an H-back that the Colts have typically used a tight end for. Nix joins the team as a likely big-time special teamer, and a hammer to block for both Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor.
For a team that wants to run the ball and be able to do so effectively, Nix adds the same mentality of dominance that the offensive line already has. He helps them get more physical up front and should be a big part of the running game’s success. The Colts have consistently used Wham and Power runs in the Frank Reich era, and with Roosevelt Nix as the fullback, they should be even better equipped to do that.
All in all, this tight end group is primarily about one thing—blocking for the run. The Colts are now equipped with a quarterback who can help them start hot and attack through the air. But once they get a lead, this team is built to lean on their running backs, and they have the tight end room that can absolutely wear defenders out by playing physical, smash-mouth football.
What do you think about this tight end group?