Starters: Dwayne Allen, Jack Doyle
Backups: Erik Swoope, Darion Griswold, Michael Miller
For the first time in 7 years, Coby Fleener will no longer be catching passes from Andrew Luck. Fleener gave the Colts a 6’6″ target with 4.51 speed along with 3 college and 4 NFL years of chemistry with Andrew Luck. Perhaps Fleener’s best quality as a Colt was his health. He played in 66 out of a possible 70 games during his stint. The Colts let Fleener go to the Saints on a 5-year $36 million contract this offseason.
While preparing for Luck’s contract, the Colts had to be careful about how they spent their cap space. One of the problems they faced while doing so was choosing between Luck’s longtime teammate and Dwayne Allen. In the end, the Colts kept Allen around on a 4-year $29.4 million extension. When healthy, Allen is one of the most well-rounded tight ends in the league in terms of run-blocking and pass-catching. The problem is that Allen has missed 23 out of 70 games in the last four years, and hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year. However, during his rookie season, PFF graded him as the best tight end in the league, and in 2014, he graded out as their best run-blocking tight end. There is a lot to like about Dwayne Allen from the 2012-13 and the 2014-15 seasons. But the 2013-14 and 2015-16 seasons are a completely different story. Allen only participated in one game in the 2013-14 because of a hip injury. During the 2015-16 campaign, Allen had a season to forget in which he recorded an abysmal 16 catches, 109 yards, and 1 touchdown in 13 games. Allen was primarily used as a sixth lineman throughout the season and many speculated that he would be the one to leave because of his diminished role. But with Coby Fleener no longer in the mix to share tight end snaps and a healthy Andrew Luck, Dwayne Allen figures to have a bounce-back campaign if he stays on the field.
Jack Doyle has been with the Colts for the past three seasons as a third tight end. His role in the offense is primarily as a blocker whether it is as a tight end or a fullback. Doyle gets the occasional flat route out of the backfield, but his receiving role doesn’t extend much more than that. Without Fleener on the roster, Doyle appears to be a lock for the second tight end spot and looks to expand his role and snap count.
At this point, the third tight end spot is up for grabs. Erik Swoope, a former basketball player at the University of Miami, figures to have the best shot at taking the third spot. He has been put on the practice squad for the past two years, so that the Colts could teach the playbook and the game to someone who has never played a down of football in his life. It would have made more sense for the Colts to keep a vertical threat like Fleener around to pair up with the blocker, Doyle. But instead, they kept another blocker, Allen, so this could hint that the Colts trust the athletic Swoope enough to replace Fleener. Like Swoope, Darion Griswold is another basketball player, except he has played football at Arkansas State University. At 6’5″ 265lbs, Griswold has great size for a tight end, but his strength and run-blocking need a lot of work. He would really need to show great pass-catching and route-running abilities, something he didn’t really do at ASU, to stick around for the final roster. Michael Miller is an UDFA out of an NAIA school, Taylor University. He is 6’6″ 252lbs with 36″ arms and 11″ hands. The arm and hand measurements would have been the largest for tight ends at the combine. Miller has already caught the eyes of Pagano as a pass-catcher, but needs to improve as a run-blocker.
With their experience, Allen and Doyle look to lead the way for this tight end group. There is currently no front runner for the last tight end spot. Swoope might be in the lead based on his two years with the Colts practice squad, but Pagano has spoken highly of Griswold and Miller.