INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts already had a steady, dependable Pro Bowler at the tight end position in Jack Doyle when they went out and signed another major playmaker at the position, Eric Ebron, in free agency this offseason.
And while Doyle and Ebron are already expected to be among the top tight end duos in the league when the 2018 regular season gets underway, Colts head coach Frank Reich said the tight end position, as a whole, has really caught his attention since he took over the team in February.
"I'm really excited about our tight end group," Reich said Thursday, when asked if any position groups had surprised him during the team's offseason workout program. "I obviously knew Jack (Doyle). I knew what a good player Jack was. But getting him and (Eric) Ebron together has been good."
Just about every tight end on the Colts' 90-man offseason roster brings a little bit different flavor to the team.
Doyle is your security blanket; a guy who's solid as a blocker, but can make catches in bunches across the middle when other options are covered up. Last year, he hauled in a career-high 80 receptions — the second most in a single season by a Colts tight end — and earned his first Pro Bowl selection.
Ebron, meanwhile, is a mismatch nightmare; a guy who can be lined up all over the field and can outmuscle cornerbacks to make plays in the middle of the field, and can outrun linebackers and safeties to break open over the top.
When Ebron hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent earlier this year, he said Reich wasn't shy about blowing up his phone and trying to sell him on being a key piece to his new offense in Indianapolis. That persistence has paid off, and Reich said he can already envision Ebron making plays all over the field come Week 1.
"Ebron is an explosive player. He's really explosive. He's really smart — I knew that because we did our homework before we got him here and heard he was a smart football player," Reich said. " But he's a really highly intelligent football player and that's really good because when you want to use a guy with the versatility that he has and you can move him around and call all kinds of different things with him."
Beyond Doyle and Ebron are four intriguing players fighting for what will likely be two or three spots on the final 53-man roster: Erik Swoope, Darrell Daniels, Ross Travis and Mo Alie-Cox.
Swoope, Travis and Alie-Cox are cut from a similar mold; former basketball players who have made the transition to professional football. Daniels, meanwhile, seems to bring a similar approach as Doyle did early in his career: someone solid at receiving, blocking and special teams play who is just looking for more opportunities to showcase what he can do.
Daniels, Travis and Alie-Cox each were prominently featured at various points during offseason practices, while Swoope — who had ascended to the No. 2 tight end spot last offseason before ultimately missing the entire 2017 season due to a knee injury — wasn't seen in the on-field work throughout this offseason.
Collectively, though, the Colts' tight ends give Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni the flexibility needed to run their offense at a high level.
"The depth at tight end, the rest of those tight ends, really, I think have looked good," Reich said. "I think we could go position by position and show the positives but I think the tight end group is one. Getting to know those guys who I hadn't known before, there's some talent there."