Sophomore tight end Coby Fleener had much to contend with during his second year with the Indianapolis Colts in 2013. Like every player on the Colts’ offense, Fleener was hurt by the loss of veteran receiver Reggie Wayne to a season-ending ACL tear in Week 7 of the regular season. Unlike the other receivers, however, Fleener also had to carry the burden of being the only tight end on the roster with any real NFL experience.
In 2012, Fleener and fellow rookie tight end Dwayne Allen played instrumental roles in Bruce Arians’ high octane pass-first offense. Allen caught 45 passes for more than 500 yards last year and showed flashes of brilliance, suggesting that the Colts may have found a more than adequate replacement for the recently departed Dallas Clark. Unfortunately for Allen, he would not be given the opportunity to expand upon his fine rookie season; his 2013 campaign was cut woefully short in Week 1 after scoring a touchdown with his sole reception against the Oakland Raiders.
With Allen out for the season following hip surgery, Fleener was forced to increase his rate of production as the Colts’ threadbare receiving corps attempted to keep the ball rolling while two of their four top performers from the previous season sat on the sidelines. Fleener’s importance was magnified by the fact he had played with quarterback Andrew Luck at Stanford and they shared a unique comfort and familiarity not yet developed between Luck and some of his other targets.
Second-year star T.Y Hilton was subjected to double coverage in most games following Wayne’s absence, as opposing teams viewed him as the only legitimate threat with the Colts’ running game stuck in reverse for most of the year. This gave Fleener an opportunity to become Luck’s No. 1 receiver on short and intermediate routes, an opportunity he grasped with both hands.
Fleener doubled his number of receptions from 2012, more than doubled his yardage, and scored twice the number of touchdowns. He finished the regular season with 52 catches for 608 yards and four scores — second behind Hilton in each receiving category.
Provided Allen returns to the starting lineup with a clean bill of health in 2014, there is no question that the Colts have the most promising tight end pairing in the league. Allen had a standout rookie year and Fleener stepped up this season when needed to most. If Indianapolis’ offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton can incorporate both men into his system effectively, the Colts won’t have to worry about their depth at the tight end position for many seasons to come.
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