Jack Doyle is a five-year veteran tight end who prior to the 2016 season had 35 catches for 199 yards. He was a star on Sunday against the Bengals and, singlehandedly, almost won the game for the Colts.
It was also, it seems, yet further proof that Cincinnati can’t handle opposing tight ends, but is that actually the truth? We go to the film room to find out.
Carlos Dunlap saved the day on Sunday, but the Bengals were on their way to losing to one of the worst teams in the league, playing without their starting quarterback and coming off a terrible 27-0 loss at home against the Jaguars.
Their offense was out of sync for most of the game, but their defense, that looked pretty good before being dismantled by the Steelers last week, gave up a little bit under 350 yards to a team that ranks at the bottom of every single category. Doyle played a huge role, catching 12 passes on 13 targets for 121 yards and a touchdown, and the ball he didn’t catch was initially ruled a catch.
How did the Bengals keep allowing a little known tight end to beat them when it was clear quarterback Jacoby Brissett was having so much trouble connecting with his wide receivers - only six catches combined for 57 yards?
Well, some of it is by design. Cincinnati plays, for the most part, a soft zone that funnels the opposing passing game towards the short middle area where their coverage guys can stay in front and make the tackle. They want to avoid the deep pass at all costs.
That is the perfect spot for a tight end, a big target down the middle. Ideally the defense would give up just a few yards or if the receiver is unable to find the open area, their pass rush might have been able to pressure the quarterback and force a bad decision or a sack.
This is the ideal situation, of course. Things go south, though, when your guy can’t make the tackle and allows the tight end, Doyle in this case, to get 10, 11 or 12 yards.
The difference between a five or six-yard catch and an eight or nine-yard catch might not seem much, but when the other team is on 2nd & 8 or 2nd & 9, it means a new first down and avoiding a third down. In both situations, it was Darqueze Dennard who missed, which is a bad sign after looking strong handling this role before the bye week.
Throw in there a little screen pass and a 17-yard catch off a play action fake that Vinnie Rey bought, and Doyle’s numbers and performance seem pretty much in line with what you’d expect from a tight end operating against the kind of coverage the Bengals usually deploy.
Doyle, on the other hand, victimized the Bengals defenders when they went to man coverage in key situations, catching passes over three different safeties: Shawn Williams, George Iloka and Josh Shaw. One of them resulted in a touchdown, and another one got the Colts real close to field goal range in their last drive of the game, down by one point.
Williams actually had a nice coverage, in my opinion, taking away the inside angle on the corner route and forcing Brissett to make a great throw for the touchdown. Shaw’s blown coverage was eggregious, though, and late in a close game you can’t just have that.
Doyle, with a career average of 8.6 yards per catch, took what the Bengals defense gave him and much more, and it was nearly enough to carry his team to victory. Only a pick six by Carlos Dunlap and a key sack by Carl Lawson powered Cincinnati to a win.
Was the right gameplan considering what a hard time the Colts offense had moving the ball every game prior to this week? Can a much more explosive tight end destroy the Bengals defense the same way Doyle went for over 120 yards on Sunday?
Delanie Walker is waiting for them on the 12th, so they better figure it out.