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.
- Pro Sports
Colts re-sign punter McAfee for five years
Shortly before 10 a.m. Friday, Pat McAfee — the Indianapolis Colts’ punter and kickoff specialist — tweeted that he had a special announcement to make at the top of the hour.
Jefferson, Bobcats top Pacers
Al Jefferson had a pretty good inkling it was Charlotte’s night when he banked in a 31-footer from well beyond the top of the key to beat the shot clock midway through the fourth quarter.
Thompson's last-second jumper lifts Warriors over Pacers in Indy
Klay Thompson made a 12-foot turnaround jumper with 0.6 seconds left, and the Golden State Warriors held off Indiana 98-96 Tuesday night to hand the Pacers only their fourth home loss this season.
Thompson scored 16 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter. Stephen Curry finished with 19 points for the Warriors, who have won five of six.
Turner scores 13 in Pacers' debut as Indiana tops Los Angeles
Paul George scored 12 of his 20 points in the third quarter, Evan Turner had 13 points in his Pacers debut, and Indiana beat the Los Angeles Lakers 118-98 on Tuesday night.
Indiana improved its league-leading record to 43-13.
West posts season-high 30 in Pacers' win at Milwaukee
Paul George scored 32 points and David West tied a season high with 30, helping the Indiana Pacers hang on to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 110-100 on Saturday night.
Lance Stephenson added 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Pacers, who had lost three of their previous five games. Stephenson scored seven straight points to open the fourth quarter.
Love has 42 points, 16 boards, Wolves beat Pacers
Kevin Love had 42 points and 16 rebounds, Ricky Rubio added a career-high 17 assists and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat Paul George and the Indiana Pacers 104-91 on Wednesday night.
J.J. Barea scored 12 points off the bench as the Wolves took control early against the Eastern Conference leaders.
George scores 26 to lead Pacers over Hawks
Paul George scored 26 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 108-98 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
David West had 17 points and Lance Stephenson added 13 to help the Pacers beat the Hawks for the second time in three meetings this season.
White Sox open camp looking to shake off misery
The stark reminder of how far the Chicago White Sox fell last season was on a wall behind Chris Sale as he fielded questions in a hallway at the team’s spring training complex.
There was a large photo from the team’s championship rally in 2005. Last season, they looked as though they were light years from a title.
Ellis, Nowitzki hand Pacers third home loss of season
Monta Ellis had 23 points and nine rebounds, and Dirk Nowitzki added 18 points as the Dallas Mavericks handed the Indiana Pacers their third home loss of the season, 81-73 on Wednesday night.
Pacers roll past short-handed Nuggets 119-80
David West scored 25 points in less than 27 minutes and Roy Hibbert added 14 as the NBA’s top team dominated the middle and blew past short-handed Denver 119-80 for its most lopsided win this season.
Hill scores 37, leads Pacers to win over Blazers
George Hill had a career-high 37 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, leading the Indiana Pacers to a 118-113 overtime victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
David West scored a season-high 30 points and had 10 rebounds and Paul Geoege added 17 points for the Pacers (39-10), who have won 5 of 6 games.
Pacers snap streak of 12 straight regular-season losses in Atlanta
It's over. This time, the Indiana Pacers had a successful regular-season trip to Atlanta.
David West scored 22 points, Paul George added 18 and the NBA-leading Pacers beat the Hawks 89-85 on Tuesday night.
Second-half surge lifts Pacers over Magic
Pacers coach Frank Vogel kept the game plan simple. Make the extra pass, take care of the ball, play defense and get more out of his bench. The four-pronged approach worked. Danny Granger scored a season-high 16 points, Paul George and Lance Stephenson each had 15 and the Pacers plowed through some rough stretches to pull away from the Orlando Magic, 98-79 on Monday night.
Manning wins 5th MVP award and AP offensive player
Peyton Manning made his fifth NFL Most Valuable Player award a family affair.
Manning’s record-setting season earned him The Associated Press NFL MVP award Saturday night in a landslide. No other player has won more than three.
Hibbert, George lead Pacers to rally past Nets at home
Paul George and Roy Hibbert both had 20 points, and the Indiana Pacers overcame an early deficit to beat the Brooklyn Nets 97-96 Saturday night.
Lance Stephenson, left out of the All-Star game despite leading the NBA in triple-doubles, added 14 points for the Pacers (36-10), who improved the league’s best home record to 22-2. David West had 17 points and George Hill scored 10.
Suns hand Pacers 2nd home loss
Goran Dragic had 28 points and seven assists and the Phoenix Suns handed the Indiana Pacers just their second home loss of the season with a 102-94 victory Thursday night.
Gerald Green and Marcus Morris scored 16 points apiece to help the Suns win their fourth straight game.
Kurt Busch 70 percent sure he’ll run in Indy 500
Kurt Busch put his chances at “70 percent” at running the Indianapolis 500 this year because of recent developments that have pushed a potential program along.
Nuggets end 3-game skid, beat Pacers
Wilson Chandler scored a season-high 25 points and the Denver Nuggets snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Indiana Pacers 109-96 Saturday night.
Nate Robinson and Timofey Mozgov added 15 points apiece. First-year Nuggets coach Brian Shaw won in his first matchup against Indiana since leaving his job as a Pacers assistant to come to Denver.
George guides Pacers to OT win at Sacramento
Paul George scored eight of his 36 points in overtime and the Indiana Pacers defeated the Sacramento Kings 116-111 on Friday night.
Oden plays in 1st NBA game since 2009
Former Terre Haute resident Greg Oden played in his first NBA regular-season game in more than four years Wednesday night, coming off the bench in the second quarter of the Miami Heat’s game against the Washington Wizards.
Moving on: Coach likes what he sees, gets ready for phase three of Colts’ development
Time to move on. In the wake of the Indianapolis Colts’ 43-22 AFC divisional playoff loss at New England last Saturday night, head coach Chuck Pagano is ready to take time off and then start getting after it again late this spring.
‘Still the same Tom’
How do you attempt to stop, or even slow down, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady?
Colts, Patriots, both with many new faces, to meet in playoffs for fourth time
Here we go again. Yet another Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots playoff game.
Up next for Colts: Brady, Patriots
Hello Tom Brady.
Thanks to the San Diego Chargers’ 27-10 AFC wild-card playoff win over Cincinnati on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts will be traveling to Foxboro, Massachusetts to face Brady’s New England Patriots Saturday (8:15 p.m.).
Victory over Chiefs means nil, Mathis says
Robert Mathis doesn’t care that the Indianapolis Colts registered a 23-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium two weeks ago.
Toeing the line: Colts’ offensive line getting healthy, finding niche as playoffs near
The Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line has certainly taken its share of hits this season, both on and off the field.
Loss at Chiefs could cost Colts bye in playoffs
Chuck Pagano doesn’t have to make his Indianapolis Colts players aware of the playoff implications surrounding the team’s road game at Kansas City on Sunday.
Back in the mix: Colts are hoping to improve their playoff seeding in final two weeks of NFL’s regular season
Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano stresses that he is not a scoreboard watcher when it comes to other National Football League games.
Back in stride: Colts finally put points on board early, roll to ninth victory of season
It had been a long time in coming, a National Football League game in which the Indianapolis Colts had a comfortable lead well into the second half.
Whalen, Richardson make waves on offense
It’s not too hard to figure out who the offensive and defensive players of the game were in the Indianapolis Colts’ 25-3 win over Houston Sunday.
- More Pro Sports Headlines
- Colts re-sign punter McAfee for five years