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Colts Camp Preview: Tight End

Dwayne Allen, Jack Doyle return to lead Colts at position.

In anticipation of the Indianapolis Colts reporting for training camp July 26 at Anderson University, is presenting a series of analytical outlooks on position groups.

This installment takes a look at tight end.

TIGHT ENDS ON ROSTER: Dwayne Allen (fifth season), Jack Doyle (fourth season), Erik Swoope (first season, previously on practice squad), Mike McFarland (first season, previously on practice squad), Mike Miller (rookie), Darion Griswold (rookie).

LAST YEAR: Allen was used primarily as a blocker, which didn’t sit well with a talented pass catcher who had eight touchdown receptions in 2014. He had just 16 receptions for 109 yards and one TD. Coby Fleener caught 54 passes for 491 yards and three TDs. Doyle was also used mostly to block, but also caught 12 passes for 72 yards and one TD.

NEW CONTRACT: Allen sounded surprised when the Colts showed their commitment to him with a new four-year, $29.4 million contract. The 2012 third-round choice was also promised to be used more effectively as a pass catcher in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s new offense. Fleener, drafted with the first pick in the second round in 2012, was allowed to depart in free agency and signed a five-year, $36 million contract with New Orleans.

OUTLOOK: Allen stayed put because of his ability to get open over the middle and ability to break tackles as well as being an excellent red-zone target with 13 TDs. Presuming Allen can stay healthy — he’s missed 21 games the past three seasons — using him more exclusively should produce career numbers now that Fleener is gone. Doyle will get some of the workload, too, but he’s more of a short-range option whereas Allen can stretch the field more. Allen’s longest catches each season were for 40, 20 (his only catch in 2013), 41 and 21.

The Colts will undoubtedly keep at least three tight ends, which means an open competition between Swoope, McFarland, Miller and Griswold. Swoope is a former Miami Hurricanes basketball player who has spent two years on the practice squad. He was finally on the active roster for the 2015 season finale but didn’t have a catch. McFarland signed with Houston as an undrafted rookie free agent but placed on injured reserve. He reached an injury settlement was signed to the Colts’ practice squad. He’s not appeared in an NFL game. Miller comes from NAIA’s Taylor in Upland, Ind. At 6-6 and 250, he showed his athleticism during offseason training activities, although he’s raw. Grigson signed as an undrafted free agent after playing his college ball at Arkansas State. He also has decent size, 6-5 and 264, and a basketball background. His college numbers weren’t gaudy because of a lack of opportunity, but his talent as an NFL prospect was obvious.

POSITIVE SPIN: Allen puts up career numbers as quarterback Andrew Luck’s No. 1 tight end option. Because the Colts have speedy wide receiver options, Allen will own the middle of the field and return to previous form as a go-to guy in the end zone. Doyle will put up career numbers as well as the No. 2 tight end option and his blocking will spell Allen from being used in that role as often as last season. If Swoope earns the third roster spot, one or two of the other options could end up on the practice squad.

NEGATIVE SPIN: Allen gets hurt again — health is the only thing holding him back from being a productive player. Doyle fills in admirably, but doesn’t run the deeper patterns like Allen so defenses can stick to using a linebacker in coverage and be better equipped at covering the speed guys outside. The other prospects prove to be just that with none of them showing enough to get steady snaps.

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

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