INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Reich said this offseason he expected Mo Alie-Cox to step up in a big way now as he enters his third full season in the NFL.
That'll have to be the case in two days, as Alie-Cox will step in at tight end for starter Jack Doyle, who has been ruled out of Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings with knee and ankle injuries.
As of now, Alie-Cox and undrafted rookie Noah Togiai, who was just picked up by the team off waivers early last week, are the only two remaining tight ends on the Colts' active roster. Reich said the team is also considering elevating a tight end — either Farrod Green or Charlie Taumoepeau, both undrafted rookies — from the practice squad.
As for the opportunity for Alie-Cox, specifically, Reich said he's "excited" to see what he can do with an expanded role.
"We've got a lot of confidence in Mo," Reich said. "He'll step right up and fill the role and play the role well."
The 6-foot-5, 267 Alie-Cox entered the NFL with the Colts back in 2017; despite the fact he starred in basketball at VCU and hadn't played football since middle school, general manager Chris Ballard liked Alie-Cox's size and overall athletic upside, and believed that with time he could develop into a solid NFL tight end.
Alie-Cox spent most of the 2017 season on the Colts' practice squad, and by the following year he was a key piece of depth at tight end, appearing in nine games with one start and finishing with seven receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns, including a sensational one-handed score in a road win over the Oakland Raiders.
Alie-Cox played in all 16 games last year, and finished with eight receptions for 93 yards. He had two receptions for 20 yards last Sunday in the Colts' Week 1 road loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But with Doyle sitting out practice all week, the Colts began preparing Alie-Cox for a much larger role heading into Sunday's game against the Vikings. He'll still be counted on to provide solid run blocking, but Alie-Cox said he's fully anticipating being involved in the pass game much more, just like the two-time Pro Bowler Doyle.
"I expect it to change a little bit," Alie-Cox said today when asked if he expects much to change on Sunday. "Just as far as the passing game goes, I'll probably replace a lot of the things that Jack does in the passing game. But at the end of the day, I'm still going to be in there for a bunch of the run plays, also.
"I'm very excited," Alie-Cox continued. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to go out there and just continue to try to make plays, but most importantly, just try to get the win."
Togiai, meanwhile, is expected to make his NFL debut on Sunday against the Vikings after he was on the team's inactives list for Week 1.
The 6-foot-4, 244 Togiai starred at Oregon State, where in 44 games with 37 starts he recorded 102 receptions for 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was only the sixth tight end in school history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards.
Togiai — a Second Team All-Pac-12 selection in 2017, and All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection last year — spent the offseason with the Philadelphia Eagles, who signed him as an undrafted free agent on April 26. The Eagles waived Togiai during final cuts, but had told him to expect to be brought back — but that's when the Colts put in their claim, and he quickly was on his way to Indy.
Reich said he's been impressed with Togiai's ability to quickly pick up the offense in the short time he's been in the system.
"Noah's really done well, in limited time," Reich said. "He's very smart, he's tough, he's very versatile. He can play a little bit of Y, little bit of F, he's a good route runner, good hands. It's a short sample size, but what we've seen so far, we really like, and (we're) excited for him.
"He's done a really good job," Reich continued. "(Tight ends coach) Jason Michael has done a good job getting him ready, but, really, Noah has done a good job getting ready, learning the offense very quickly and feeling comfortable where we have confidence with him in there."
Alie-Cox has also noticed Togiai's quick-study abilities, and said he's been impressive in his first few practices.
"That's the good thing about Noah: he came in and he's very attentive, he pays a lot of attention, but he's also very smart," Alie-Cox said. "So if he sees something he doesn't understand, he asks a question immediately to try to get it down, and we go out to practice, he doesn't really mess up at all. So he's paid a lot of attention, and (I) just try to help him as much as possible, because, I mean, we're definitely gonna need him this week."
As for Doyle, the Colts are at this point taking a wait-and-see approach.
Reich said today the team initially believed Doyle's injuries could keep him out multiple weeks, but that he's made "good progress" in recent days.
"It's just too early to tell," Reich said. "You know, we're hopeful, but we really don't know at this point. I think at the outset we were thinking more than that (one game missed), and then if you get anything better than that, great. But we're not counting on that at this point — and there's really no reason for us to project that at this point. Let's just get through this weekend and then see where he's at in the beginning of next week."
Elsewhere at the position, veteran Trey Burton, who signed a one-year free agent deal with the Colts this offseason, will remain on injured reserve with a calf injury through at least Week 3.