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INDIANAPOLIS – Over the last decade one of the many new trends in the NFL has seen the rise in wide receivers on the field.

Last season, 59.3 percent of offensive snaps saw teams use 3 wide receivers and 1 tight end.

The Colts had an even higher percentage of those snaps last season.

With the ‘passing age’ of the NFL continuing to evolve, teams are spreading defenses out, forcing their opponents to use more nickel and dime personnel.

But the Colts might be bucking that trend a bit this season.


First, Frank Reich gushes about the Colts’ depth at the tight end position.

“I’m really excited about our tight end group,” Reich said at the end of the team’s minicamp earlier this month. “I obviously knew Jack (Doyle). I knew what a good player Jack was. But getting him and (Eric) Ebron together has been good. Then the depth at tight end, the rest of those tight ends, really, I think have looked good. Getting to know those guys who I hadn’t known before, there’s some talent there.”

Second, the Colts don’t have a lot of proven depth at wide receiver.

Behind T.Y. Hilton on the current depth chart are Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers. If those guys start to emerge, or if rookies Deon Cain/Reece Fountain push for playing time, maybe that would change Reich’s mind a bit on employing more ‘11’ personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers). But for now, the Colts don’t have a tremendous amount of quality/proven depth at receiver.

Third, Reich has some versatility with his tight ends being displaced as a receiver (i.e. Ebron), therefore that could cause an opposing defense to be in some non-advantageous personnel groupings in trying to predict what the offense is going to do.

If the Colts use more 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends, 2 wide receivers; which the NFL used on 18.8 of snaps last year), it could force a defense to stay in their base look, believing that bigger bodies are needed to stop the second tight end.

Reich even took it a step further earlier this year when talking about the Colts possibly using 3 tight ends together.

“Thirteen personnel (1 wide receiver, 3 tight ends) is going to be hard to defend,” Reich said. “You have to decide if you are going to play sub (package), get into your nickel stuff, then that’s where you can run the ball a little bit more.

“The use of these tight ends is going to be fun to watch our coaching staff do.”

And it’s also going to be a very competitive position group to trim down this preseason.

Doyle and Ebron are locks to make the team.

Erik Swoope has always been an intriguing talent, but he hasn’t been healthy in the Chris Ballard era.

After those 3, guys like Ross Travis, Darrell Daniels and Mo Alie-Cox all had some flashes during the offseason program.

No one should be surprised if the Colts are relying on several of these names in 2018 to move the ball down the field.