INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time in his professional career, Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle became a safety blanket in 2017.
The Colts were confident enough in making Doyle their top tight end that they traded away former third-round pick Dwayne Allen, handing Doyle the reins at the position. Doyle had always been durable, sure-handed and was a good blocker, so there was not much risk involved.
Just three quarters into the first game, Jacoby Brissett was thrown in as the team’s quarterback. It was a new team that he had joined just two weeks prior, with only two career starts under his belt. He needed a go-to guy, and Doyle became the one.
Of the 453 routes that Doyle ran throughout the season, he was targeted on 102 of them (22.5%). That percentage was the fourth-highest in the league among tight ends according to Pro Football Focus.
Of those 102 targets, Doyle caught 80 of them (second among NFL tight ends) for 690 yards (8.6 avg) and four touchdowns. His career year earned him his first-career Pro Bowl selection.
So, Doyle’s production flourished as a result of being Brissett’s safety valve last year, but what about moving forward?
Good news for Doyle: Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles led the league’s tight ends in target percentage last year. His offensive coordinator was none other than Doyle’s new head coach, Frank Reich.
Make no mistake, the Colts’ tight end group as a whole will be a focal point of the offense under Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, but Doyle is its leader.
Assuming quarterback Andrew Luck’s return, that doesn’t hurt Doyle’s chances either. Luck has spread the wealth to his tight ends throughout his career.
From 2012-14 and 2016 — seasons in which Luck has played all or nearly all of the season — he targeted tight ends on 21.5 percent of his passes. The percentage in which Luck targets tight ends has increased throughout his career as well, averaging 19.1 percent from 2012-13 and then 23.8 percent in 2014 and 2016.
Get used to having Doyle featured in the offense, because the combination of his proven track record, the return of his quarterback and his new coaching staff indicates that is to continue.