INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts will seek their first win of the year Sunday without a major offensive weapon.
Tight end Jack Doyle was ruled out for the weekend Friday with ankle and knee injuries. It’s a loss that’s hard to quantify in mere numbers alone.
Doyle caught three passes for 49 yards in last week’ 27-20 loss at Jacksonville, but he’s just as valuable as a blocker in the running game and as a leader in the huddle.
He played 73% of the Colts’ offensive snaps, behind only wide receivers Parris Campbell (82%) and T.Y. Hilton (80%) among potential targets.
“Jack is just such a money tight end,” Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich said. “You just know you can count on him to run a good route, you can count on him to understand leverage and spacing – all those things that we talk about. But he’s not the only guy.
“So, if Jack is that guy, it doesn’t mean that the other guys who are filling in for him are not in the same zip code. They’re all in the same zip code, so you’ve got little tweaks.”
Mo Alie-Cox figures to be the focus of many of those tweaks.
The 26-year-old former VCU college basketball star will make just the fourth start of his three-year career Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. But this will mark the first time he’s been the team’s primary tight end.
Alie-Cox has made his name primarily as a physical blocker, but he has averaged 14.5 yards on 17 career receptions with a pair of touchdowns. His one-handed catch and run for a 26-yard touchdown at Oakland in 2018 remains a topic of conversation amongst fans and players alike, and the 6-foot-5, 267-pounder is a perennial breakout candidate.
He believes he’s ready for this opportunity.
“It’s not really too much (of a) mental (adjustment) because the way we prepare during the week, I get some of Jack’s reps,” Alie-Cox said. “That’s just how it goes in practice so you don’t overwork the body. It’s not more so mental, it’s just physically going out there preparing to have a larger role, probably running more routes than I usually do and getting my body right for the game.”
Noah Togiai was the only other tight end on the active roster Friday. That could change, with Reich saying the team will look at all personnel decisions over the weekend.
New rules in 2020 allow teams to elevate a player from the practice squad up to 90 minutes before kickoff on game day. The Colts have rookies Farrod Green and Charlie Taumoepeau on the 16-man practice squad.
Togiai, an undrafted rookie out of Oregon State who was claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 6, has made a quick transition in Indianapolis.
“He’s very smart,” Reich said. “He’s tough. He’s very versatile. … He’s a good route runner, good hands. It’s a short sample size, but what we’ve seen so far, we really like.”
FOUNTAIN IN MIX?
Daurice Fountain was the feel-good story of training camp.
After suffering a gruesome ankle injury prior to the 2019 season, the 24-year-old wide receiver underwent three surgeries and couldn’t run routes without pain until July.
He quickly showed burst and explosion when he got back on the field this summer and made a strong run for the 53-man roster. Fountain eventually lost out to rookie Dezmon Patmon and special teams ace Ashton Dulin but was re-signed to the practice squad.
He was elevated to the active roster this week and could make just his second regular-season appearance Sunday against the Vikings.
“He had a real nice practice out there today as well,” Reich said Friday. “He made two really spectacular catches. Reese is explosive off the ball. He’s continued to work hard. That’s really a credit to him and the injury that he’s come back from. We knew when he got put on the practice squad that there would be a chance that he would eventually be up. We’ll just see how it goes for him.”
Doyle was the only player ruled out for Week 2 on Friday, but there are five players listed as questionable.
Wide receiver Zach Pascal (ankle) and cornerback Isaiah Rodgers (ankle) were full participants in the week’s final practice. Defensive end Justin Houston (calf) played through the same injury last week, and rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (toe) was the victim of a practice mishap Thursday. He worked on the side with trainers early Friday and also did some individual work in the indoor facility during the portion of practice open to the media.
Rookie safety Julian Blackmon also continues to progress. He was limited all three days this week as he continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered in December’s Pac-12 Championship Game.
There’s at least a mild chance he makes his NFL debut this week.
“We’ll just see how he responds over the next couple days,” Reich said, “just still evaluating that.”