As the Indianapolis Colts face the Cincinnati Bengals in the final round of preseason games, there are a lot of sneakily interesting storylines, not including Andy Dalton taking as many as five or six snaps against his alternate-reality team. The offensive line has gotten a lot of play, as have the running backs.
We’ll get an eye-full of third-string quarterback Chandler Harnish out of Northern Illinois University, enough to contribute to the debate on whether or not to keep three passers on the 53-man roster (or stow him away safely on the practice squad, which would be my preference). But tonight, I’ll be watching the tight ends.
Tight end play has been the trendy thing in the NFL the past several seasons, with Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, among several others, growing the position (Note: The Colts don’t have a tight end with a last name that starts with “G,” breaking what seems to be the accepted convention).
But how many tight ends can the Colts afford to keep?
Third-year player Dwayne Allen has always been pretty solid when he’s been healthy, and he’s a lock for the roster. Most Colts fans are more familiar with Coby Fleener, the Stanford man who looks like he might be a member of the Cullen family. He’s on my fantasy team because it’s been proven by science that Andrew Luck likes to throw to him. But he’s not really a traditional tight end. True tight ends aren’t just huge receivers; they’re solid blockers as well, and Coby seems to struggle a bit with aiding in the protection of his QB bro.
That’s what will make “bubble” player Jack Doyle interesting to watch this evening. He might not get a lot of receptions, but goodness knows that anyone who can help hold the line will be an asset to this team. Doyle caught just one pass for eight yards against the New York Jets and one for 10 yards against the New Orleans Saints, but pundits who know things have been impressed with his more intangible contributions. The Colts might make room for him come final cuts, and I hope they do.
And don’t forget about transitioning basketball player Erik Swoope. He’s highly, highly unlikely to make the final roster. He’s made only one football catch in his entire life. But they knew that when they picked him up. He’s a project. Hopefully he’ll earn one of the 10 practice squad spots to continue his development, not unlike Daniel Adongo last year.