Just because Dallas Clark is now in Tampa Bay and Jacob Tamme has moved on to Denver doesn’t mean that the tight end position has become any less important to the Indianapolis Colts offense.
Far from it. With Bruce Arians now directing the Colts offense as coordinator, tight end remains an integral part of the team’s game plan.
That much was proven during last month’s National Football League draft when Indianapolis added a pair of talented rookies – Stanford’s Coby Fleener and Clemson’s Dwayne Allen – in the second and third rounds. The Colts have also signed street free agents Kyle Miller, Dominque Jones and Andre Smith.
Fleener and Allen, though, are the immediate future and both figure to see plenty of playing time during the 2012 season. Arians was a big proponent of using two tight ends on a regular basis when he was in charge of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.
“Adding Dwayne [Allen] and Coby [Fleener] has really changed the environment in the [locker] room,” tight ends coach Alfred Roberts said after Wednesday’s organized team activity practice. “They understand that to be very good players in this league, the body of work has to be put in now to get ready to play on Sunday.
"It’s been a joy to me because they’ve accepted everything we’ve talked about. They look forward to getting better each day. It’s not a ready-made product. I’ve encouraged them from our very first meeting that what they’ve done collegiately was great, but this is a different deal. You come in and you have to command the respect of veterans. To do that is to come to work every day and make the plays you are supposed to make.”
Roberts knows all about playing the tight end position in the NFL. An eighth-round pick by Kansas City in 1988, he played five seasons in the league with the Chiefs (1988-90) and Dallas (1991-93). He's also served as an assistant with Tampa Bay for three seasons before arriving in Indianapolis.
Just how the Colts plan to make the best use of Fleener and Allen remains to be seen. Both are big, athletic and physical receivers. But to label one as a receiving tight end and the other as a blocking tight end misses the point. Arians wants to move them around the field, much like how New England has used multi-talented Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in recent seasons.
“They are going to be in the backfield blocking, on the line of scrimmage blocking or split out running routes," Roberts explained.
"It’s not a sense of who the blocker is or who the receiver is. They’ve both had success at both roles. These guys want to be thought of as football players, tight ends that want to do both when asked to do both.”
• Roster moves – The Colts’ player personnel department has certainly been busy in recent days.
The rapid-fire roster moves began last Thursday when the team signed undrafted free agent QB David Legree and waived TE Brody Eldridge.
Legree (6-4, 225) began his collegiate career at Syracuse before transferring to Hampton University at the conclusion of the 2008 campaign. In two seasons with Indianapolis. Eldridge, a fifth-round draft pick in 2010, saw action in 27 games and totaled 14 receptions for 84 yards. He was subsequently awarded to the Rams.
A day later, on Friday, Indianapolis claimed OG Zane Taylor off waivers from Philadelphia and waived OG Matt Murphy, who has since signed with Cincinnati.
Taylor (6-2, 309) was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jets on July 28, 2011. He has spent time on both the Tampa Bay and Philly practice squads. Murphy was signed to the Colts practice squad on September 28, 2011.
And on Wednesday, the team acquired CB Cassius Vaughn in a trade with Denver in exchange for FB Chris Gronkowski.
Vaughn (5-11, 195) is entering his third NFL season. In 22 career games (three starts), he has totaled 22 tackles (18 solo), one interception, four passes broken up and three fumble recoveries. Vaughn also has recorded nine career returns for a 37.2 average and one touchdown.
“Cassius is a young cornerback who brings game experience at his position, proven kickoff return ability and pure speed to the Colts,” general manager Ryan Grigson said Wednesday. “He’s a player who can really run and when you turn on the film you instantly recognize his athletic ability and speed.
“He’s a guy who has not hit his ceiling as a player yet and we saw some really encouraging things on tape that led us to the trade. I think it’s a win-win for both clubs because the Broncos are getting a quality football player, person and a heck of a fullback in Chris Gronkowski.”