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Film Room: Breaking down the “Jack Doyle Play” and its use in the Colts’ offense

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Jack Doyle is a key component to the Colts’ short yardage offense

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

While the Indianapolis Colts’ offense had it’s struggles last year, they were able to be pretty effective in both their red zone offense and their short yardage third down offense. While having one of the league’s best rushing offenses helps a lot in those areas, I want to take a second to look at one of the Colts’ most effective plays in these situations.

I have coined the play as the “Jack Doyle Play” for the time being, at least until I find an official play call for it. Essentially, the play is a delayed tight end flat to Doyle and this is nearly unstoppable for the Colts in these short yardage situations. So today, we will be breaking down the key elements of the play and how it works in different situations for this team.


Elements of the “Jack Doyle Play”

The play is a simple delayed tight end flat route. How is that route so effective against NFL defenses, especially with a tight end who isn’t the greatest athlete in the league at the position? Well here are the three core elements for this play finding success:

  • Down and distance. With the play typically being third and short or in the red zone, the defense is keying run. Doyle’s defender is typically a box defender so they are especially keying that run play and the play action in the backfield typically freezes the defense
  • Selling the block. The next step is for Doyle to sell his block on the play. Having one of the league’s best rush offenses along with Doyle’s reputation as a top run blocking tight end, this makes the defender even more likely to crash for the run.
  • Wide Receiver pick. If the defender stays on Doyle despite all that, they then have to fight through a legal pick route by the outside receiver. All these elements make this an insanely hard route to cover for a defender and really isolates one player to put him in a bind.

Here is an example of the play and my audio breakdown of the three elements working in phase. The Colts trust this play so much that they ran it on the game sealing third down against the Falcons in week three.


When selling the run works

If the defense bites on the run play entirely, it could lead to a big play for the Colts offense. Oftentimes, Doyle will find himself with a ton of room in front as his defender either gets lost in the traffic or bites so hard on the run that he loses track of the veteran tight end. This is the ideal result of the play call as it usually nets the biggest gain and gives Doyle a chance to run through a smaller defensive back in the open field.

The Raiders absolutely sell out for this fake run late in the game in 2018. This leads to the deep safety having to be on Doyle which is a completely unfair match-up given the ground he needs to cover up. Selling that run action on this play frees up Doyle for the game winning touchdown.

The safety who should be covering Doyle on this play doesn’t pay any mind to him as he is completely selling out for the run. His eyes are inside the entire time which leads to Doyle sneaking out into the flat for the big gain.


When the pick works

Now the pick route combo is like a fail safe for the play to still work if the defense doesn’t bite too hard on the run action. This route is typically run against off man coverage so it is asking a lot for a safety or off linebacker to fight over a pick with such a small amount of yardage to pick up for the first. Putting that emphasis again on putting defenders in a bind which is a key element of Frank Reich’s offense.

Going back to 2018, the pick worked perfectly on this play against the Redskins. The safety bites a little bit on the run action which has him playing catch-up on the route. He then has to navigate around the pick which leads to a big gain and conversion for Doyle up the right sideline.

Slightly different set up here as Doyle comes in motion across the formation. He gets into his typical position for the route though and the safety is following him in man over the top. The safety stays on the route the entire time but Zach Pascal’s perfect pick route throws the safety just enough off the route for Doyle to find the end zone.


When the defense covers it up regardless

If the defense plays the route perfectly despite the run fake and the pick play, the Colts still have another way of winning with this route. Doyle is a two time Pro Bowl tight end and he has the ability to win match-ups in one-on-one situations. If his route is covered up, he simply breaks off the play vertically and has to win a 50/50 ball which he is very capable of doing.

This is actually an outstanding play by the Buccaneers’ defensive back as he takes away both the pick route and Doyle on the play. He sits perfectly in the flat and forces Doyle to break the route off up the field. Jacoby Brissett does a great job of extending the play and putting a good pass in Doyle’s hands for the first down.


Final Thoughts

My biggest takeaway with this play design is just how important Jack Doyle is to this Colts’ offense. Defenses even know this too as they respect him so much as a blocker that they are selling out on plays like this.

Doyle is a top tier run blocker, a reliable pass catcher, and an incredible competitor on the field. He may never be a top tier receiving threat at the position but the Colts are able to use him in a ton of different ways to maximize his abilities and increase his impact on the offense. As we (hopefully) approach the 2020 season, keep an eye out for this play on third and short and goal line situations.