Indianapolis Colts

Jack Doyle making Colts forget about Coby Fleener

OCT 23 2016: Indianapolis Colts Tight End Jack Doyle (84) celebrates his game winning touchdown for the Colts during the NFL week 7 game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN. (Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire)
Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire

If you ever walked into the Indianapolis Colts locker room, chances are you walked right past fourth-year tight end Jack Doyle. Quarterback Andrew Luck’s new favorite target prefers to keep a low profile when the media cameras enter the locker room. Luck refers to him as the Clint Eastwood type —“a strong, silent guy.”

A quiet and unassuming gentleness emanates from the 6-foot-6, 270-pound football player when he’s off the field, but when the sun beams high over the gridiron on a mid-Sunday afternoon, a Jekyll and Hyde transformation takes place. The ferocity of professional competition takes over and Doyle turns into an absolute beast that has waited three long years to be unleashed.

He has spent the last couple of years buried on the depth chart behind tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Fleener’s elite pass-catching abilities assured his lead in the snap count, and Allen was utilized more as a blocker or a fill-in whenever Fleener needed a breather.

It wasn’t until Fleener bid farewell to the Colts in favor of a more lucrative contract offer in New Orleans that Doyle’s playing time increased. He moved up as the No. 2 option behind Allen, who signed a four-year deal to stay on as the team’s top tight end. The departure of Fleener left a void in offensive production, and there was too much skepticism to get fully behind Allen.

Not to mention his extensive injury history. Allen’s talent on the field is often hampered by the fact that he rarely stays healthy. He is currently sidelined with an ankle injury.

So began the WWJD era.

In the last two weeks, Doyle has exploded on offense with 13 receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He is in on every snap, and he is catching a ridiculous 88 percent of targeted passes. Luck threw the game-winning touchdown pass to him on Sunday against an underrated Tennessee Titans defense.

A nice connection is forming between Luck and Doyle in a year when the team had some natural concerns about the tight end position. Still not a believer? Maybe you’ll take the word of a respected veteran like Frank Gore, who recently called Doyle one of the best teammates he’s ever had:

“Coming from the bottom, undrafted free agent, getting cut here. To this? Man. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever been on a football team with. Man, he is a baller. You’re so happy when things happen like this for a guy like that.”

Doyle is a dual-threat tight end, which is something the team never had with Fleener. Not only is he capable of making plays down the field catching the football, but he is also proving to be a good blocker as well. He was in the lineup against the Houston Texans two weeks ago when Gore became the first running back in the last four seasons in Indy to rush for 100 yards in a game.

Any athlete can appreciate the grind and substantial improvements Doyle has made during his time on the bench. Opportunities don’t come often in the NFL, and it is up to every player to be prepared when they do. Doyle has spent the last three years preparing for this moment, and now that it has arrived, he is showing that “strong” side of his Clint Eastwood personality on the football field.

“I’m always looking for Jack Doyle [on the field]. He’s awesome, he’s the best,” Luck told reporters after the game.

Don’t expect much to change from Doyle after a pair of breakout performances. He’ll still be the same quiet guy who shows up and works hard every day. The only difference will be the cameras and microphones now surrounding him. Like Luck, the media will start looking for Doyle as well.

No one is walking past that guy anymore.

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