Colts rediscover utilizing tight ends

Coby Fleener caught a career-high nine passes Sunday. He and Jack Doyle have combined for 16 receptions in the past two games.

Two games into the NFL season, the Indianapolis Colts could be accused of ignoring their tight ends in the passing game.

Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and Jack Doyle were used mostly to block. Allen had three receptions for 17 yards and one touchdown. Fleener had one 5-yard catch and a two-point-conversion reception. Doyle didn’t have a catch.

Despite not having Allen the past two games due to an ankle injury, the Colts have relocated Fleener and Doyle, particularly Fleener, who has caught 13 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown. He caught a career-high nine passes for 83 yards and one score in Sunday’s 16-13 overtime win over Jacksonville. In Week 3, Doyle caught three passes for 32 yards.

“Yeah, it’s funny how Dwayne’s ankle got better real quick,” backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said Monday with a chuckle, after Allen had been cleared to return for Thursday’s game at Houston.

“I don’t know what happened,” Hasselbeck said with a smile. “Could be a coincidence. I don’t know.”

Seriously, Sunday’s starter for the injured Andrew Luck said the tight ends are always a priority in the offense, although they were used more in pass protection in the first two games, both double-digit losses at Buffalo and to the New York Jets.

The Colts have won the last two games with the tight ends more involved.

“We know that the tight end being involved in the offense is really important,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s always been a conscious effort. Constantly Andrew is talking in our (quarterback) room about how good our tight ends are, what great matchups they present, so we have a great feeling about our tight ends this year.”

That’s especially important for the Colts’ trio, who are all in contract years.

Fleener was unaware he caught a career-high nine passes on Sunday, but liked the workload.

“It felt good,” the fourth-year pro said Monday. “By the end of it, I have no idea how many it was.”

When Fleener wasn’t getting targeted, he calmly reiterated nobody was panicking.

“Sometimes, when it rains it pours,” he said. “I think we’ve kind of said all along there’s going to be games when it’s run heavy, or there are games where it’s pass heavy, and sometimes the passes will go to the wide receivers, sometimes it will go to the running backs, sometimes it will go to the tight ends. It just kind of depends on the game.”

The key, he said, is to not be selfish.

“You try not to,” he said. “Everybody ultimately wants to win, but at the same time you also want like the bigger piece of the pie. You want to help the team as much as possible.”

Head coach Chuck Pagano said tight end involvement typically depends on matchups, and he conceded Fleener has been winning many of his lately.

“Playing tight man coverage and that happened to be a matchup Coby was winning and making plays,” the coach said. “So somebody gets hot and they’re winning their matchups and he’s making plays, then you stick with the hot hand, so to speak.

“He’s playing fast. He’s playing more physical in the run game. He’s being aggressive. He had nine catches, his best day as a Colt, so we need him to keep rolling.”

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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