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Tight Ends Strive For Consistency, Versatility Under Hostler

Posted Nov 20, 2017

Intro: Indianapolis Colts tight ends coach Jim Hostler likes the continued growth and upward ceiling of his group and their impact on the entire offense.

INDIANAPOLIS — The 2017 tight ends room for the Colts, consisting of Jack Doyle, Brandon Williams, Erik Swoope and Darrell Daniels, may not have the highest pedigree on the roster — each of the four members joined the league as undrafted free agents — but the group continues to develop and mature.

When Dwayne Allen left in the offseason via trade, Doyle, a free-agent-to-be who earned a new multi-year contract in March, became the de facto senior member at the position.

“Last year Dwayne was the leader in the room and Jack sort of just took the back seat,” tight ends coach Jim Hostler told reporters last week during the bye week. “Now Jack is a leader by example, which is really the best way to have your front guy in the room because everyone can watch the guy and from the top down.”

Heading into the bye week Doyle not only led the Colts' offense, but all NFL tight ends with 52 receptions, having become a favorite target of quarterback Jacoby Brissett as the two build a rapport in the signal caller’s first year with the team.

“I think he has been consistent,” Hostler said. “Jack has been the same guy all year. He’s always at the top in completion percentage so his targets are high and his completion percentage is high.”

That makes for a nice security blanket when going through pass route progression during a play, but ultimately receiving might be the fifth-year veteran’s second best trait on the field based on what Hostler hears from his NFL coaching peers.

“He’s probably one of the best blockers in the NFL on and off the ball,” Hostler said. “You talk to coaches around the league before the games, guys that I know, and they have a lot of respect for him because that’s the type of player he is.”

Brandon Williams, currently second on the unofficial depth chart, plays a similar game as Doyle and has done well to model his approach and consistency.

“[Brandon] has become much better on the line of scrimmage as a blocker,” Hostler noted about the fifth-year player who has spent time with the Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks before signing with the Colts in March. “Although we don’t throw him the ball a lot he has become a very consistent route runner the quarterback can trust.”

Williams has contributed nine catches for 132 yards so far this season, while fellow tight end Daniels, a rookie, has added three receptions for 26 yards. The only member of the tight ends group without a reception so far this year is Swoope, who was placed on Injured Reserve Sept. 4 after undergoing a procedure on his knee but started practicing with the team again last week, which excites his position coach.

“He brings athletic ability, a matchup (problem),” Hostler said. “We can move him around and we can get him matched up on guys. They’re going to have to be conscious of where he’s at, what he’s going to do. We can put him outside. We can take advantage of getting certain people on him."

Swoope, an extremely athletic player, was a project for the Colts when they signed him out of the University of Miami in 2014 after having never played organized football in his life, although he was a standout basketball player for the Hurricanes.

Swoope, who had worked hard to become the No. 2 tight end this season only to miss most of the season with a knee injury, could return to the lineup soon, if the team elects to bring him off IR. Thinking of players such as Antonio Gates of the Los Angeles Chargers, who took the same path to NFL stardom, a healthy Swoope can give the Colts great flexibility in the offense, complementing guys like Doyle and Williams, his position coach said.

“Brandon and Jack are a certain type of player and they don’t fit in the same mold as Swoope,” Hostler said. “Swoope is a unique type of player. Now when Swoope comes back that will be something we’ll add back into the offense and hopefully he’ll pick up and the consistency will stay the same even though he’s doing it more.”

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