AFC South: Dominique Jones

INDIANAPOLIS -- The two-tight end formation was supposed to be a significant part of the Indianapolis Colts' offensive package last season.

Dwayne Allen, the all-around tight end, on one side. Coby Fleener, the pass-catching tight end, on the other side. Both were going to be used in the passing game and also help block for what was supposed to be a power-running game.

But the ability to use Allen and Fleener together ended less than a full game into the 2013 season because Allen suffered a season-ending hip injury.

That left Fleener and a number of different players trying to fill Allen's void.

Jack Doyle. Dominque Jones. Justice Cunningham. Weslye Saunders.

The Colts hope they won't have to do the same thing next season with the tight ends. Allen recently told Colts.com, the team's official website, that he feels like he's “almost to 110 percent” healthy.

“We love using tight ends like everybody else,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “But (Fleener) took a big step in Year 2 and played really good football for us and will continue to do that. Getting Dwayne back, we're going to have great options there. You get that inline blocker in Dwayne but don't forget that Dwayne is a heck of a pass receiver, too. So we can create a bunch of mismatches with those guys and get them out in space and get the matchups that you want. It's going to be a great situation.”

Having Allen back gives offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton the flexibility with different formations. Allen played on the line of scrimmage, off the line of scrimmage and he played in the backfield during his rookie season.

"Pep and those guys do a great job of putting those guys in position to make plays and be successful and try to create the matchups that you want," Pagano said. "You have two guys there that have position flexibility and can do a lot of things for you. We're going to ask (Fleener) to do some of the heavy lifting. Having both those guys in the lineup and having them healthy gives us a lot of flexibility there.”

Wayne's return is big, but so is Allen's

February, 14, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- At some point in March, Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen will likely be medically cleared after having hip surgery in the fall.

Returning to the field -- when it happens -- will be a significant step for Allen, who said before last season he was one of the best tight ends in the NFL.

Much of the Colts' injury talk -- and rightfully so -- has surrounded receiver Reggie Wayne's recovery from a torn ACL at the age of 35, but Allen has significant value, too.

The Colts went into last season thinking they would have two of the league's up-and-coming tight ends in second-year players Allen and Coby Fleener to go with their other offensive weapons.

Allen wanted to build on his rookie season in which he started all 16 games and caught 45 passes for 521 yards and three touchdowns.

Those thoughts quickly changed in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders.

Allen injured his hip during the second half when he landed awkwardly after going up for a pass that Oakland's Kevin Burnett tipped.

Allen's injury left the Colts without stability at tight end outside of Fleener, who had to become a complete tight end and not just one who could catch passes. Allen excelled at blocking and catching the ball, which is why he started during his rookie season.

Justice Cunningham. Jack Doyle. Weslye Saunders. Dominique Jones.

Those are the tight ends not named Fleener who caught passes from Andrew Luck last season.

"This past season was very exciting from the standpoint of watching the guys go out there and play," Allen said. "Every week, not knowing what you're going to get on the field. The way that we just picked and plugged guys in and continued to have success is the highlight of the season. Of course, the low light was me not being able to play. That's a part of this game. Injuries happen. I was able to cope really quick and get over it and cheer those guys on."

Allen isn't talking about what he plans to do on the field. He simply wants to get back there first then he's taking a show-them rather than a talk-about-it approach because he knows that won't get him anywhere.

"I'm nowhere near I was and my goal in the offseason is not to get where I was, but to surpass that," he said. "With the increase in the range of motion in my hips, I should."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Health wasn't supposed to be a problem for the Indianapolis Colts. Their biggest issue was how they would protect quarterback Andrew Luck.

But both are now problems for the Colts less than three weeks into the regular season.

Starting running back Vick Ballard, the team’s best blocker at the position, went down with a season-ending knee injury on Sept. 13. That was followed by starting guard Donald Thomas having his season end with a torn quad against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. And when you think it couldn’t get any worse, coach Chuck Pagano, who seemed bothered by the latest development, announced that starting tight end Dwayne Allen would require season-ending hip surgery.

Three starters -- all responsible for helping protect the franchise -- done for the season because of injuries in less than a week.

“Like Donald, like anybody we’ve lost at this point, it makes you sick,” Pagano said. “Injuries are part of this game. We all understand that, we know that.”

Allen injured his hip when he collided with Oakland safety Tyvon Branch while attempting to catch a pass across the middle of the field in the Sept. 8 game against Oakland.

Allen originally thought the injury wasn’t severe, but concern grew when Pagano classified him as day-to-day during his Monday news conference.

“We were all hoping it would be something with time and with rest and he would come around,” Pagano said. “He’s a tough, tough, tough kid, and playing through the foot injury, the sprain. Once we got (the hip) evaluated, what the doctors saw in there and what needed to be done, for the long term, the big picture (surgery is) the right thing to do."

Allen told ESPN.com on Sept. 5 he considered himself one of the best tight ends in the league because of his ability to catch and block. That responsibility now falls on the shoulders of Coby Fleener, with Dominique Jones and Jack Doyle backing him up. Fleener is known for his catching -- when he’s not having mental lapses -- but the reason Allen moved ahead of him on the depth chart last season is because of his blocking skills.

As I pointed out in Wednesday’s “QB Watch,” Luck is on pace to be sacked 56 times this season. He was sacked four times against Oakland and three times against Miami.

“We’re very confident,” Pagano said when asked about Fleener's increased role. “We all saw why we took Coby where we took him, what he can do last week. He played an excellent football game, not only in the pass game, he blocked well. He’ll continue to do that. He knows his role. It’s obviously going to expand now.”

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has constantly talked about having a balanced offense, but he may have to tinker with that philosophy and let Luck pass the ball more with three-receiver sets.

That, of course, depends on whether Luck has enough time to get the ball off.

“You have to almost be a little bit, not cold-blooded, but like that really stinks and we have to move on as a team now,” Luck said. “I think those guys understand that. The guys who are going to fill in for them understand that, and it’s going to be a collective unit on offense to stay on track.”

TE Dwayne Allen downgraded to doubtful

September, 14, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- All indications point to the Indianapolis Colts not having their starting tight end for Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

The Colts downgraded tight end Dwayne Allen to doubtful Saturday afternoon because of an injured hip. The decision to do that isn’t surprising because Allen did not practice all week. He was supposed to go to the team’s facility and test his hip out Saturday. Allen got injured in the second half of the Sept. 8 game against the Oakland Raiders.

Coby Fleener will start at tight end with Dominique Jones and Jack Doyle being the backups if Allen doesn't play.

Running back Vick Ballard is out for the rest of the season after injuring his knee in practice Thursday.

It’s never good to lose players, especially starters, but the timing of Ballard’s knee injury and Allen’s likely absence comes right before the Colts face a Miami defense that had six sacks against Cleveland in Week 1.

Ballard was perfect in blocking assignments against the Raiders, and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton talked about Allen’s blocking ability during the preseason.

Colts could be without TE Allen on Sunday

September, 13, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS – Lost in Friday's news of running back Vick Ballard's season-ending injury is word that the Indianapolis Colts could also be without starting tight end Dwayne Allen for Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

Allen didn’t practice this week because of a hip injury, which happened in the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders.

“The injury that he suffered to the hip is coming around, but it hasn’t come around as quickly as we thought it would,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “It didn’t make any sense to push the envelope and put him out there to practice.”

Allen is expected to test his hip Saturday to see if he’ll be able to play against a Dolphins team that had six sacks against Cleveland last weekend.

Allen’s second season hasn’t started the way he envisioned. He missed the entire preseason with a foot sprain, and now he’s dealing with the hip problem.

Dominique Jones will be the second tight end behind Coby Fleener if Allen doesn't play.

Besides Allen, starting linebackers Jerrell Freeman (quadriceps) and Erik Walden (hamstring) and backup linebacker Kavell Conner (ankle) are listed as questionable on the team's injury report.

Kick returner/receiver David Reed is out Sunday due to a quadriceps injury.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts were going to fill the roster spot created when they traded linebacker Caesar Rayford to Dallas on Tuesday.

That’s not surprising.

The Colts did that by moving tight end Dominique Jones from the practice squad to the 53-man roster and signing tight end Justice Cunningham to the practice squad.

The Colts now have four tight ends on the active roster with Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Jack Doyle and Jones.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Allen and Fleener are expected to play against Oakland during his media session Monday. They may play, but adding a fourth tight end to the active roster has to make you wonder how healthy Allen (foot) and Fleener (knee) really are.

The Colts need Allen and Fleener healthy because they're key components to what should be a lethal offense this season.

The Colts claimed Doyle, an Indianapolis native, off waivers from Tennessee on Sunday. Titans coach Mike Munchak talked about Doyle to the Tennessee media.

“He’s a guy that you liked the way he developed,” Munchak said. “He was a guy undrafted. We liked what we saw, but to carry four tight ends is hard when you carry a fullback. You never know with that whether it’ll be over or not be over. That was a guy that worked well and earned a spot. I’m proud of him, happy for him. A guy that could be undrafted and make a 53, that’s pretty good.”

If Fleener or Allen isn’t healthy, Colts fans could see Doyle, an Indianapolis native, sooner than expected.

Colts claim tight end off waivers

September, 1, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts rounded out their practice squad and claimed a player off waivers Sunday.

The Colts claimed tight end Jack Doyle, an Indianapolis native and undrafted rookie out of Western Kentucky, off waivers from Tennessee. The team also released rookie running back Kerwynn Williams.

The Colts have injury concerns at tight end, as Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, their top two players at the position, both missed at least half of the preseason. Allen didn’t play in the preseason because of a foot injury. Fleener first dealt with a concussion and now is working his way back from a sprained knee. The Colts hope Fleener and Allen will be ready for the season opener against Oakland on Sept. 8.

Keeping four running backs turned out to be too much for the Colts, which is why Williams was released. The rookie handled the majority of the kickoff-return duties in the preseason. He averaged 21.5 yards a return in the preseason, and he rushed for 92 yards in the finale at Cincinnati last week.

Barring any changes, David Reed, whom the Colts acquired from Baltimore on Aug. 21, likely will be the team’s kickoff returner. He led the league in 2010 with almost a 30-yard return average. Reed, however, suffered a concussion against Cincinnati last week.

The Colts signed linebacker Daniel Adongo, center Thomas Austin, quarterback Chandler Harnish, tight end Dominique Jones, linebacker Josh McNary and cornerback Sheldon Price to the practice squad.

Predicting the Colts' 53-man roster

August, 30, 2013
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Here’s my projection at what the Colts' 53-man roster will look like:

Quarterback

Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck

Comment: The Colts are in good hands with Luck and Hasselbeck.

Running back

Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Donald Brown, Kerwynn Williams

Comment: Williams locked in his spot as the fourth running back by rushing for 92 yards against Cincinnati. He’ll also likely return kicks.

Fullback

Stanley Havili, Dominique Jones

Comment: Havili proved that he can be another option for Luck to throw to out of the backfield against Cleveland last weekend.

Wide receiver

Reggie Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey, TY Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen, David Reed

Comment: Colts are set with Wayne, Heyward-Bey and Hilton, but depth is still a concern at receiver.

Tight end

Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Justice Cunningham

Comment: You have to cross your fingers that Fleener’s preseason problems were just that and they won’t linger into the regular season.

Offensive line

Anthony Castonzo, Donald Thomas, Samson Satele, Mike McGlynn, Gosder Cherilus, Hugh Thornton, Joe Reitz, Khaled Holmes, Jeff Linkenbach

Comment: The Colts’ scoring success depends heavily on how well this unit protects Luck

Defense

Defensive line

Cory Redding, Josh Chapman, Ricky Jean Francois, Aubrayo Franklin, Montori Hughes, Lawrence Guy, Drake Nevis

Comment: The defensive line has to prove it can stop the run.

Linebackers

Robert Mathis, Erik Walden, Bjoern Werner, Caesar Rayford, Pat Angerer, Jerrell Freeman, Kavell Conner, Mario Harvey, Kelvin Sheppard

Comment: Rayford is the surprise name on this list, but the 27-year-old former Canadian and Arena League player earned a roster spot by having a very strong training camp.

Cornerbacks

Greg Toler, Vontae Davis, Darius Butler, Cassius Vaughn, Josh Gordy

Comment: The Colts are in good hands if Davis and Butler play like they did during the preseason.

Safeties

LaRon Landry, Antoine Bethea, Joe Lefeged, Larry Asante

Comment: Asante made a strong case to make the roster with an interception against Cleveland and 13 tackles against Cincinnati. Don’t count out Sergio Brown, though.

Special teams

Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee, Matt Overton

Comment: No comment necessary

Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star made his 53-man roster projection earlier this week.

Conrad Brunner of 1070 The Fan did the same.

Observation deck: Colts-Bengals

August, 29, 2013
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CINCINNATI -- No Andrew Luck. No Reggie Wayne. No Cory Redding. No Antoine Bethea or Robert Mathis, either.

In what’s the biggest yawner of the preseason because starting players rarely play, the preseason finale against the Cincinnati Bengals was all about borderline players trying to make one final impression on front office officials and the coaching staff before the 53-man roster has to be set by Saturday evening.

Here are other observations from the Indianapolis Colts’ 27-10 loss to the Bengals:
  • Third-string quarterback Chandler Harnish played for all but the first two series of the game. He didn’t do anything to help his case to play behind Luck and Matt Hasselbeck. But that’s not surprising, because Harnish struggled the entire preseason. Harnish started 2-of-6 but managed complete six of his next seven passes to finish 8-of-13 for 55 yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked twice. Harnish’s best bet is that he’ll be brought back to be the team’s practice-squad quarterback.
  • Rookie running back Kerwynn Williams took advantage of Ahmad Bradshaw not playing and Vick Ballard getting only a handful of snaps to be the lone bright spot on offense. The seventh-round pick rushed for 92 yards on 18 carries. Williams will likely be the fourth running back on the depth chart. He’ll also be the team’s primary kick returner. "He's got the heart of a lion," coach Chuck Pagano said. "He's produced really every week and made big plays. He's put enough out there so you have to give it some heavy consideration."
  • Safety Larry Asante followed up his 48-yard interception return for a touchdown against Cleveland last weekend by getting a sack and also recovering a fumble in the first half. Asante had a game-high 13 tackles. He had only four tackles total in the first three preseason games. Asante's play the past two games keeps him in the mix to make the roster as one of the safeties.
  • Receiver/kick returner David Reed, acquired from Baltimore on Aug. 21, left the game with a concussion.
  • Linebacker Caesar Rayford stood at his locker still in his pads mad at himself long after the game. The rookie seemed to be in a good position to make the team with a team-high five sacks heading into Thursday. But he wasn't pleased that he didn't close out the preseason the way he wanted to. He had only two tackles against the Bengals, with one of the tackles being in the open field. Rayford did enough early in the preseason to earn a roster spot.
  • Linebacker Daniel Adongo, the rugby player attempting to play football for the first time, didn’t play during the preseason because Pagano wasn’t comfortable putting him the game. That didn’t stop a press box announcer from saying Adongo had a special-teams tackle in the first half. A No. 46 got the tackle for the Colts, but it wasn’t Adongo. It was tight end Dominique Jones. Jones later caught a touchdown pass from Harnish.
What’s next: The Colts open the regular season against the Oakland Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Sept. 8.
Click here for the complete list of Indianapolis Colts' roster moves.

Most significant move: I didn’t expect they were doing anything with Dwight Freeney, but his $19 million salary had stirred up a new round of rumors that the Colts could let him go. He’s on the team, and there were no real cuts of note aside from the team’s most senior player, long-snapper Justin Snow. It’s not as if they were so deep there was no room, but the Colts held on to several players who weren’t drafted -- tight end Dominique Jones, offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe, linebackers Mario Addison and Mario Harvey and long-snapper Matt Overton.

Onward and upward: The Colts kept both Drew Stanton and rookie Chandler Harnish as backups to Andrew Luck. I understand that Stanton’s been with the Colts through Bruce Arians' installation and there is value in that. But last season showed the value of a decent backup quarterback. If Luck gets hurt and the Colts need an alternative, I suspect there are some guys who just became available who qualify as more talented. General manager Ryan Grigson should have insight into one of them, Mike Kafka, who was released by Philadelphia. Grigson was hired by the Colts from the Eagles personnel department.

What’s next: Every player who is not a vested veteran is subject to waivers. And as the worst team in the NFL last season, the Colts still retain the first pick in the waiver order. That means they will get anyone they claim, so long as the claim comes with a corresponding roster move. That means guys who are feeling good tonight might still be in position to turn in their playbooks Saturday, or in the days to follow. Grigson could do a lot of work to upgrade the last five spots on his roster. Or more. I’d expect some turnover on the offensive line, in the secondary and perhaps at linebacker and quarterback.
Quick storylines and thoughts from the three preseason games I didn’t attend Thursday night.



Houston beat Minnesota 28-24


  • Trindon Holliday had his third return touchdown in four preseason games. He’s surely locked up a spot by now. If the Texans were to let him go, he’d get snatched up in a second by someone looking for a big boost to the return game. Maybe he’s finally got it all together.
  • Rashad Butler, who lost out on the starting right tackle job, is done for the year with a torn triceps, which could mean the Texans are in the market for a backup swing tackle in case something happens to left tackle Duane Brown or right tackle Derek Newton.
  • DeVier Posey impressively bounced off a couple tackles on his impressive 80-yard catch and run touchdown, a nice play from the guy who had the quietest preseason of the team’s three young receivers.

 

Indianapolis beat Cincinnati 20-16


  • Per Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star: They are 2-2 in preseason for first time since 2004. “Since 2005, they are 7-27 in games that don't count and are hard on the eyes.”
  • The leading passer, rusher and receiver for the Colts from this game will all likely be cut Friday. Chandler Harnish would have to prompt the Colts to keep a third quarterback. Deji Karim is the fifth running back. And Kris Adams seems more like a practice squad candidate.
  • Semi-alarming stats if it was a meaningful game: Ten penalties for 80 yards, something the Colts won’t be able to afford very often. Three fumbles, which are too many. A total of 36:47 on defense, which is too much. Eight punts in 14 possessions, also too many.
  • Will the two guys who missed tackles for the Bengals on the 42-yard TD by Dominique Jones that provided the winning margin even be in the league this year? Who know? Jones is going to be the Colts third tight end, at least at the start.

 

Jacksonville beat Atlanta 24-14


  • The Jaguars ran 45 times for 225 yards and got especially big nights from Keith Toston and Jalen Parmele accounted for 127 of the yards. How much credit they get for their yards against lower ranking Falcons defenders is hard to know. That helped the Jaguars hold the ball for 35:30, a great possession advantage.
  • Blaine Gabbert finished the preseason 36-for-59 for 355 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and two sacks. That adds up to a 95.0 passer rating. He had a clumsy fumble in the first game and a toss off the fullback at the start of this one. But the killer mistakes were way down.
  • Why did Laurent Robinson slow down when he was open and Gabbert put a good deep ball on him early? The two still have timing to work out. But that looked to be more about the receiver than thrower to me.
ANDERSON, Ind. -- There is a lot of room at the back end of the Colts’ roster.

It’ll be no surprise for them to be turning over spots 48, 49, 50, 51, 52 and 53 well into the season depending on what general manager Ryan Grigson and his scouting staff can find and what the coaching staff tells Grigson it needs.

Grigson
Grigson
And pedigree won’t mean a lot as they search. As well as the world is scouted, players can be found.

Ty Nsekhe is a 6-foot-8, 325-pound, 26-year old rookie offensive tackle. He’s played with the Corpus Christi Sharks of af2 and the Dallas Vigilantes, Philadelphia Soul and San Antonio Talons of the AFL.

Tight end Dominique Jones looks to rank third on a team that will use multiple tight ends. He went to Shepherd University and played for the Reading Express of the Indoor Football League and the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League.

“You’re only as good as the back end of your roster,” Grigson said Monday. “That’s why we will scour the CFL, the Arena League. That’s why our energy is going to be on digging under every rock and in every crack. We have so many spots to improve on and to develop. You can find talent in a lot of places. You just have to look really, really hard.

“You have to have the courage to actually sign those guys from places that might make some people scratch their heads. You have to have enough, what we call eye confidence, to come to me and say, ‘Grigs, look at this guy. I think this guy can play,’ no matter what league he’s in, no matter if he’s in the arena 9 league. They are all over the place. And we’re going to keep looking and digging.”

I don’t know what kind of chance Nsekhe has.

But Jones is involved in what the Colts are doing and on a team that will likely need four tight ends, and it won’t be a surprise if he’s one of them.

Indianapolis' undrafted rookies

April, 30, 2012
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The Colts' list of undrafted rookie free agents:
  • James Aiono, DE, Utah
  • Chigbo Anunoby, DT, Morehouse
  • Steven Baker, OT, East Carolina
  • Cameron Chism, DB, Maryland
  • Kevin Eagan, DE, Endicott
  • Antonio Fenelus, DB, Wisconsin
  • Jason Foster, G, Rhode Island
  • Chris Galippo, LB,USC
  • Hayworth Hicks, G, Iowa State
  • Buddy Jackson, DB, Pittsburgh
  • Matt Merletti, S, UNC
  • Micah Pellerin, S, Hampton
  • Jabin Sambrano, WR, Montana
  • Brian Stahovich, P, San Diego State
  • Griff Whalen. WR, Stanford

The Colts also agreed to terms with tight end Dominique Jones and claimed running back Deji Karim off waivers.

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