INDIANAPOLIS — Perhaps no other position group was stronger, and more consistent, than the Indianapolis Colts' tight ends throughout the 2016 season.
Though the team's three primary tight ends — Dwayne Allen, Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox — certainly weren't newcomers to the Colts, each shined in their own way, giving the team plenty to build upon at the position moving forward.
Here's a review of the play of the Colts' tight ends in 2016:WWJD?
The pressure was on Jack Doyle last offseason — though you certainly couldn't tell.
The Colts last offseason elected to sign Dwayne Allen to long-term deal, letting Coby Fleener test the free agent market; he eventually signed with the New Orleans Saints. That left Doyle — the team's dependable, but not-often-utilized No. 3 tight end the previous season — as the de facto, all-important No. 2 tight end in an Rob Chudzinski offense that relies heavily upon at least two tight ends that can be effective both as pass catchers and as blockers.
Simply put, Doyle ended up shining in a much larger role.
He was targeted 75 times total on the year, and had 59 catches for 584 yards (9.9 yards per catch) and five touchdowns.
Among players with at least 50 targets in the 2016 season, Doyle ranked ninth in the NFL — and first among tight ends — with a 78.7 catch percentage. Ahead of him were players like LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell and DeMarco Murray.
Oh, and did we mention Doyle also had three special teams tackles on the season, ranking 11th on the team in that category?
Doyle enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, but you can imagine the Colts and new general manager Chris Ballard will do what they can to try to ensure No. 84 stays in the blue and white for the foreseeable future.D.A.
Dwayne Allen admitted he was a bit shocked when the Colts reached out with hopes of signing him to a long-term deal last offseason, but he gladly put pen to paper and got to work.
But through the first 11 games of the 2016 season, Allen had just two touchdowns catches to show for his reported $29 million contact. Allen, of course, is one of the better blocking tight ends in the league, but the higher-paid players at his position get their money reaching the end zone, and after dealing with some nagging injuries (hip and ankle issues) for much of the season, those scores just weren't happening consistently.
Then came the game against the New York Jets.
All of a sudden, everything clicked, as Andrew Luck found Allen for three touchdowns — in the first half alone — and the Colts wouldn't look back from there in a big win on the road. Allen became the first player since Jerry Rice (yes, Jerry Rice) to catch three touchdowns in the first half of a game on Monday Night Football.
In all, Allen finished 2016 with 35 catches for 406 yards and six touchdowns, which was tied for the seventh most scores among tight ends in the NFL (Doyle's five touchdown receptions tied him for 10th on that same list).
The hope is that with a little better luck health-wise, as well as just another solid offseason under his belt, Allen can built upon his solid finish to the 2016 season and jump to even bigger heights in 2017.More than a hooper
The story of Erik Swoope has been told many times. He's a guy that had never played organized football in his life, was a basketball player at the University of Miami, but somehow found himself on the Indianapolis Colts' offseason roster in May 2014.
Swoope worked hard to learn the nuances of football from the ground up. What others learned over the course of several years in youth, high school and college football, Swoope had to cram into his brain and into the rest of his body in just a couple years until he earned the Colts' No. 3 tight end job last training camp.
Only a few players (Antonio Gates and former Colt Marcus Pollard among them) had been successful with a similar transition. But the 2016 season proved to be a huge stepping stone for Swoope in his football endeavors.
He competed in all 16 games — with four starts — for the first time in his NFL career, and caught 15 passes for 297 yards (for a 19.8 yards-per-catch average) with one touchdown, which he caught Week 15 in a win on the road over the Minnesota Vikings, a 27-yard play to give Indy a 17-0 lead.
Oh, and Swoope also had to master various roles on the Colts' special teams units, too, and he finished with six special teams tackles, ranking sixth on the team in that category.
Swoope will be the first to say he still has a long way to go in his development as an NFL tight end — particularly as a blocker. But he's proven a fast learner, and someone the Colts know they can count on moving forward.Other notes
Only one other tight end, Chase Coffman, really made any sort of contribution to the Colts' roster in 2016, and it came in two short stints. Coffman was active for just two games — Weeks 7 and 8 against the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs.
He didn't log any catches in those two games, however.Number to remember:
4: The number of Colts tight ends to record three touchdowns catches in a single game. Dwayne Allen, who accomplished that feat in 2016 against the New York Jets (all in the first half), joined Dallas Clark (12/13/2009), Ken Dilger (12/14/1997) and Jim Mutscheller (10/13/1957) as the only other Colts tight ends to have accomplished that feat.
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