It’s probably safe to say that the Indianapolis Colts have been blessed with some pretty good tight ends over the 59-year history of the franchise.
Jim Mutscheller, John Mackey, Ken Dilger, Marcus Pollard and Dallas Clark were among the best at the position when they played. Mackey was a 1992 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, attesting to his immense talent and the overall impact that he had on the National Football League.
Those are the very large shoes that a pair of rookies — second-round draft pick Coby Fleener and third-round selection Dwayne Allen — have to try and fit into heading into the 2012 NFL season.
Fleener and Allen were the top two tight end prospects heading into last April’s draft. It was a position that was in dire need of help due to the dual losses of Clark (released and signed with Tampa Bay) and Jacob Tamme (signed with Denver as an unrestricted free agent).
Both rookies are expected to be thrown into the fire early. The Colts were one of the first teams in the NFL to use a double-tight-end alignment on a regular basis under former offensive coordinator Tom Moore. Moore used Dilger and Pollard, then Pollard and Clark and later to a lesser degree with Clark and Tamme, Ben Utecht, Bryan Fletcher and Tom Santi.
New England coach Bill Belichick saw the success that Indianapolis had with two-tight-end sets and decided to jump on board. The Patriots upped the ante considerably the last couple of seasons with their use of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Now the Colts are back with Fleener and Allen. Both are big (6-foot-6, 252 and 6-3, 255 respectively) and athletic. Both have deceptive speed. Fleener is a taller version of Clark, someone who can be used in tight as a blocker, flanked outside as a standup receiver or be used as an H-Back. Allen, meanwhile, will be used as an end-line blocker and receiver who will also line up as an H-Back or fullback on occasion.
First-year offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is a longtime disciple of Moore, having worked on the Colts’ offensive coaching staff for three seasons (1998-2000). Arians is also a big proponent of using a two-tight-end system, having had a lot of success with it in Pittsburgh when he was the offensive coordinator there (2007-11).
His desire to use both Fleener and Allen on a regular basis this season is a given. Arians might also find ways to throw in one of the team’s other tight ends, such as Kyle Miiler, Andre Smith or Dominque Jones for a few plays. Anything to create a defensive mismatch.
“We’ll play two or three tight ends. A tight end for us could play wide receiver, running back, fullback. His role will change depending on the skill set. And these guys are all very multiple in their skill set so we can use them in a lot of different ways,” the Colts’ offensive coordinator said recently.
“So I like to think back to a Kenny Dilger or a Marcus Pollard, that type of skill set where we can split them out and have them in the backfield and see how the other guys come in and keep growing. So the sky’s the limit for their ability.”
Arians’ history of highlighting the tight end position in his offensive game plans brings smiles to the faces of this year’s draft picks.
“Initially it’s, ‘Where do I fit?’ Then when I found out that Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator I knew exactly where I fit into this offense and where he sees me in this offense,” Allen said late last week. “So now it’s just going. We’re two different guys. We’re two different types of tight ends. Like how can we co-exist on the field and what do we have to offer?”
Fleener, a college teammate of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck at Stanford, is confident that a one-two punch with Allen will work out just fine.
“I think coach Arians has done an awesome job of kind of utilizing our strengths in a way that both of us feel very comfortable in moving inside, outside, all around. I think he’s done an awesome job of using us in all of those routes,” he voiced.
The Colts primary play caller likes his new tight ends just fine.
“I think they’re both complete. They both can block, they both can catch, they can split out wide. Dwayne is more suitable to put in the backfield than Coby. Between the two we can cover all our bases and be multiple in all our different sets without substitutions,” Arians said.
“Most of it is how much they can handle. With their ability we can come up with different packages every week with two or three guys, and have them in a lot of places where we think we can create a mismatch. We found a good one with Coby and a linebacker in the red zone [during a recent practice]. Andrew found him for a touchdown. So it’s just trying to create mismatches with those guys, either lined up at tight end or out wide.”
• Watch out for Allen — Fleener may have been the topic of conversation after the draft, but the Colts’ offensive coordinator reminds observers not to forget how good Allen is.
“I’ve been really pleased with him. His strength is evident. You know, it’s very hard for a young tight end to come in and block at this level. And he’s shown an outstanding effort and ability to do it,” Arians said.
“Everybody thinks of Coby as a pass catcher, but [Allen] has got really good hands and he’s probably as sudden a guy with the ball in his hands as I’ve seen in a while at tight end.”
• Luck, quarterback updates — The Colts’ No. 1 draft pick got a bit more work Sunday afternoon as the team’s coaching staff tried to catch up after having to move Saturday’s afternoon workout indoors due to thunderstorms.
Luck completed 28 of 41 passes — that’s the most pass attempts that he’s had in a training camp practice — with five touchdown passes. He did not throw an interception.
Backup quarterback Drew Stanton was intercepted by Robert Mathis during a coverage drill. Rookie quarterback Chandler Harnish served up two interceptions during the practice, both to former Purdue cornerback Brandon King.
• Injury list — Wide receiver Donnie Avery suffered an apparent hip/upper thigh injury after making a diving, twisting catch in the end zone for a touchdown on a throw by Stanton. His left leg was wrapped in an elastic bandage and Avery did not see any more practice time the rest of the day.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano said that team doctors were going to take a closer look but that initial reports seemed to indicate that the injury wasn’t serious.
Sitting out were cornerbacks Justin King (hip flexor), Buddy Jackson and Chris Rucker (flu-like symptoms), wide receiver Jarred Fayson and safety Tom Zbikowski (rest).
• Remembering the Reid family — News that Garrett Reid, the 29-year son of Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, had died early Sunday morning in a residence hall at the Eagles’ training camp facility hit the Colts organization hard.
Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson worked for nine years for Philadelphia in a variety of scouting and front-office assignments. He’s a close friend of the Reid family. Also, three Colts players — offensive tackle Winston Justice, inside linebacker Moise Fokou and outside linebacker Greg Lloyd — had previously played for the Eagles.
“I am deeply saddened by this tragic news. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Reid family. They are a special family led by two extremely strong and loving parents in Andy and his wife Tammy,” Grigson said in a written statement Sunday morning. “I ask that the entire Colts nation and football fans everywhere lift Coach Reid and his family up in prayer during this difficult time.”
Pagano had quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen lead the team in a post-practice prayer for the Reid family Sunday.
“We lost a family member. We lost a brother. You know, we’re all together in this thing in the NFL. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Reid family. We’re thinking about them. I talked about this all the time, about family,” the Colts head coach said. “We’ve got to compete against each other week in and week out every Sunday. But at the end of the day, when the gun goes off and the game’s over and we shake hands, it’s about sportsmanship. Our thoughts and prayers go out to coach Reid and Tammy and the rest of the Reid family.”
It’s probably safe to say that the Indianapolis Colts have been blessed with some pretty good tight ends over the 59-year history of the franchise.
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Colts hoping for more high marks on draft picks
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts received high marks for the impact players the team added through the NFL draft.
Of the 10 players selected, five ended up either starting or seeing extensive playing time (quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard) during the Colts’ 11-5 season.
While this year’s class may not rival that group in terms of name recognition and flash, it may produce just as many major contributors once the 2013 season gets underway.
Werner at top of game
Bjoern Werner was a late comer to football. But after being selected in the first round of the 2013 National Football League draft by the Indianapolis Colts, Werner realizes that he has reached the pinnacle of the sport in a relatively short amount of time.
Colts select pass rusher Werner in first round
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Colts in wait-and-see mode for tonight’s NFL draft
As the 2013 NFL draft gets underway tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the Indianapolis Colts are continuing their wait-and-see stance in regard to the first-round pick.
The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
As it stands now, Indianapolis does not have a second-round pick. It was traded to Miami last fall in exchange for veteran cornerback Vontae Davis. But second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has nut ruled out the possibility of trading down from the first round if the Colts aren’t satisfied with the players available.
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Redding, who has become one of the Colts’ lockerroom leaders after just one season with the team, thinks he has some reasonable expectations of Indianapolis’ former No. 1 draft pick.
Heyward-Bey feeling fortunate to hook up with Luck
Add one more player to the list of veteran free agents signed by the Indianapolis Colts this offseason.
Former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey agreed to a a deal with the Colts late Monday evening. Bey, who played collegiately at Maryland, was the seventh player selected in the first round of the 2009 National Football League draft.
Colts sign nose tackle
Another day, more player signings for the Indianapolis Colts.
Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin agreed to terms with the Colts on Tuesday evening and officially signed with the team Wednesday. Franklin (6-1, 315) is a 10-year NFL veteran with stops in Baltimore (2003-06), San Francisco (2007-10), New Orleans (2011) and San Diego (2012).
Colts sign Matt Hasselbeck to back up Luck
The Indianapolis Colts’ roster moves just keep coming.
While the Colts haven’t yet added that big-name wide receiver that team owner Jim Irsay hinted at in tweets over the weekend, Indianapolis has addressed one area on offense.
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had agreed Monday night to be the Colts’ primary back-up to second-year starter Andrew Luck. He officially signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team Tuesday morning.
“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Matt Hasselbeck,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “His body of work, intangibles, and extensive league experience speak for themselves. Those factors, plus his familiarity with our offensive scheme, will make him a great asset to our team and its vision as we move forward.”
Colts likely done signing free agents, for now
With the possible exception of adding a few lesser-priced players, the Indianapolis Colts’ big-time foray into the veteran free-agent marketplace is pretty much done.
Landry, Jean Francois join Colts defensive unit
After adding five veteran free agent players to the Indianapolis Colts roster on Tuesday, general manager Ryan Grigson plucked two more plums late Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.
New York Jets safety LaRon Landry and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois both signed contracts with the Colts. Landry, a strong safety who appears to be a bigger version of former Indianapolis Pro Bowler Bob Sanders, and the versatile Jean-Francois are expected to make immediate impacts on the Colts’ defensive unit.
Colts introduce free-agent signees
What the Indianapolis Colts accomplished last season — posting an 11-5 record and earning an AFC wild-card berth with a young team plus having that kind of success without its head coach on the sidelines for 12 games — didn’t go unnoticed by players around the NFL.
That was especially true for the five veteran free agents who were added to the Colts’ roster Tuesday. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (Detroit), cornerback Greg Toler (Arizona), outside linebacker Erik Walden (Green Bay), offensive guard Donald Thomas (New England) and linebacker Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta) admitted as much Wednesday.
“I felt like this would be the best fit for me at this point in my career. I really liked what I saw was happening with the program here and the way things have taken shape. I feel like we have a really great team here and it’s on the rise. I really wanted to be a part of that,” Thomas said during a teleconference interview with the Colts’ media.
Colts sign five free agents, filling needs at offensive line, cornerback
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Jeff Saturday retires as a Colt
An Indianapolis Colt for life. Pencil in Jeff Saturday for that honor.
The 14-year veteran center in the NFL put an official stamp on a career Thursday that began in Baltimore in 1998 and ended in Green Bay in 2012. But it was those 13 seasons in between — from 1999 to 2011 in which he played for Indianapolis — when Saturday earned his greatest rewards.
Saturday thrilled to retire as a Colt
The 14-year veteran center in the National Football League put an official stamp on a career Thursday that began in Baltimore in 1998 and ended in Green Bay in 2012. But it was those 13 seasons in-between — from 1999 to 2011 in which he played for Indianapolis — that Saturday earned his greatest rewards.
Saturday to retire as Colt on Thursday
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Indianapolis franchises punter McAfee
A week ago, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said it was a priority that the team retain the services of punter Pat McAfee.
McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who’s contract is due to expire March 12, was designated as the Colts’ franchise player Friday. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team’s special-teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed,” Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. “We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks.
Colts GM enjoying time at combine
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Colts keeping eye on large crop of talented linemen in NFL Draft
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Among the offensive line candidates who have been showcasing their talents at the National Football Scouting Combine, which began in earnest Thursday and wraps up on Tuesday, the spotlight has been on the offensive tackles. Offensive left tackles in particular.
Colts' Pagano back to full work schedule at combine
Back and ready to go.
That’s the attitude Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is taking during the National Football Scouting Combine, which completed its second day of operations Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. During a wide-ranging press conference at the combine, Pagano confirmed that he is back to a full work regimen after missing 12 games last fall as he battled a rare form of leukemia.
After undergoing cancer treatments that featured heavy doses of chemotherapy, the second-year head coach was able to return to the sidelines for Indianapolis’ final regular-season home game against Houston and for the team’s AFC wild-card matchup with eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
Colts looking forward to different approach to draft in 2013
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts had the first overall pick in the 2012 National Football League draft.
It was a foregone conclusion that the Colts would select former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the selection. While Indianapolis front office and player personnel officials certainly had to do their due diligence in preparing for the draft, the Colts find themselves this year in a bit different situation.
The team will have the 24th overall pick in the first round, which is a double-edged sword. Indianapolis picks lower in the round due to a successful season. But the pool of available can’t-miss talent isn’t quite as plentiful as drafting earlier in the round.
Former Pro Bowl selection Freeney won't return to Colts
The news coming out of the Indianapolis Colts headquarters Friday afternoon was not totally unexpected. Team officials have confirmed that two veteran players – former Pro Bowl defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney and wide receiver Austin Collie — will not be returning for the 2013 season.
Colts’ new offensive coordinator will offer variety
Quarterback Andrew Luck running the Pistol offense? Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton lining up in the Wildcat?
Colts moving on to the off season
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Baltimore ends Indy’s playoff run early
The Baltimore Ravens want one long final ride for Ray Lewis. Having disposed of Andrew Luck and the Colts, they now face a more imposing challenge.
Next up, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
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Just as Baltimore Ravens players and coaches will be seeing some old friends returning to M&T Bank Stadium today, several Indianapolis Colts veterans will also have an opportunity to renew acquaintances with a familiar face.
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