INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni spoke to local reporters today via video conference. What did he have to say about the plan to keep tight end Mo Alie-Cox involved in the gameplan, why he expects the team to make improvements on third down and more?
You can watch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Even with Jack Doyle and, soon enough, Trey Burton returning at tight end, there will be an emphasis to ensure Mo Alie-Cox is getting the football: The Colts spent most of training camp with Doyle, Burton and Alie-Cox, in that order, as their top three tight ends — a formidable, all-around group of talented blockers and receivers, all of whom bring a little bit different flavor to the passing game.
But Burton would suffer a calf injury in the team's second training camp scrimmage at Lucas Oil Stadium just before the start of the regular season, which would land him on injured reserve and force him to miss at least he first three games of the year.
Doyle, meanwhile, missed the Colts' Week 2 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings with knee and ankle injuries.
That left Alie-Cox as the team's primary tight end that day at Lucas Oil Stadium, and he shined, hauling in a single-game career-best five receptions for for 111 yards in Indy's 28-11 victory.
Doyle was able to make his return last Sunday against the New York Jets, but even then, Alie-Cox was still the featured pass-catching tight end; he finished with three receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown, including a career-high 45-yard reception in the second quarter. Doyle, meanwhile, was not targeted in a game for the first time since Week 15 of the 2015 season.
Now Burton is expected to return to practice this week, and once he does, the Colts have 21 days to decide whether or not to keep him on the active roster or revert him to IR for the rest of the season.
So while the gameday roster is getting back to full strength at tight end, Sirianni said Alie-Cox has played too well the past couple weeks to not keep him involved as a focal point of the offense moving forward.
"We have to continue to keep him involved," Sirianni said of Alie-Cox. "He's made too many plays to now say, 'OK, Mo, now you take a back seat. … We want to get him the football and we have a variety of ways we want to get him the ball."
» The Colts aren't exactly happy about their performance on third down so far, but they're not going to panic, either: "It ticks us off a little bit, honestly," is how Sirianni described the Colts' offense ranking last in the NFL at third down conversion percentage through three games (30.3 percent).
Perhaps it's an even more bitter pill to swallow considering the Colts have ranked first (47.7 percent) and 12th (41.6 percent) in the NFL the last two seasons, respectively, under head coach Frank Reich and Sirianni.
But that's also why the coaches aren't real worried at this point, either.
"We are definitely not where we want to be on third down," Sirianni said. "We have really good personnel to be able to win one-on-one matchups, our blocking is really outstanding. I just think it's a bit of a lack of execution … need to execute better, need to put players in better position.
"It's us as a whole," Sirianni continued. "I don't think that it's anything, one thing in particular, but we definitely have to be better at it and it starts with us as coaches. … So just gotta grind to work to continue to get better there."
» Sirianni can relate to what Michael Pittman Jr. is going through with compartment leg syndrome: Pittman Jr. suffered a lower leg injury in the first half of last Sunday's game against the Jets, but was able to return in the third quarter and finish with three receptions for 26 yards. But later that night, he began experiencing severe pain in his leg, and upon meeting with team medical personnel, it was determined the best course of action was to immediately get the rookie receiver, who was diagnosed with compartment leg syndrome, into surgery to relieve the pressure.
Sirianni, who starred as a receiver at Division III Mount Union, said today he, too, suffered a very similar injury and was diagnosed with compartment leg syndrome.
"Michael ran an in route, which coincidentally was the same route I ran when I had hurt myself, as well," Sirianni said. "Same way — right leg. … Unfortunately, I'm an expert on this subject."
The good news, Sirianni said, is, "I came back and played and I felt like I was better than ever, to be honest with you, after I came back."
The Colts are yet to announce when they expect Pittman Jr. to return; he's expected to at least miss this Sunday's Week 4 matchup against the Chicago Bears.