Jack Doyle was acquired by one general manager and extended (twice) by another. He’s also played for two different head coaches and will play for his fourth offensive coordinator this fall.
And Carson Wentz will be the seventh different starting quarterback during Doyle’s nine seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Indy native is one of just five players 30 or older on the 90-man roster, and only T.Y. Hilton (by a scant 172 days) is older.
Hilton – drafted in the third round in 2012 – also is the only current player with a longer tenure with the franchise than the 31-year-old tight end.
It’s been a long and strange journey for Doyle, who has played in 114 regular-season games, six playoff contests and two Pro Bowls since being claimed off waivers from the Tennessee Titans in 2013.
In a league where change is the only constant, the former Cathedral star and undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky has become an unlikely mainstay.
“I’m still having a ton of fun, probably as much fun as I’ve had playing football and truly trying to take it one day at a time and enjoy it,” Doyle said. “But, yeah, time does fly, and you just take it one year at a time. Sometimes some of the younger guys will ask, ‘What year is this for you?’ It’s weird to say nine.
“If you would’ve asked Jack Doyle back in 2013 how many years he was going to play in the NFL, I don’t know if I would’ve said nine. But it’s just fun to be here every day and be with the guys playing a kids’ game. You can’t ask for much better.”
The secret to Doyle’s longevity can be summed up in two words – versatility and dependability. He’s appeared in at least 14 games in six of his first eight seasons, and he can perform every task a tight end is asked to perform in the NFL.
He’s a terrific lead blocker in the run game, either as an in-line tight end or as a fullback. He aids the pass protection as an extra blocker when called upon. And he’s been a consistent threat on third down and in the red zone as a receiver.
Doyle isn’t going to wow anybody with his speed and athleticism, but he’s been a comforting presence for each quarterback he’s played with.
His role in 2021 figures to remain much the same. He’ll again serve as a security blanket for new starter Carson Wentz in high-leverage situations, and he’ll be asked to lead a young position room that also includes rising Mo Alie-Cox and rookie Kylen Granson.
The tight ends complement one another well. Doyle does most of his best work as a blocker and on short-yardage and intermediate routes. Alie-Cox is a physical mismatch as a fearless former basketball player willing to go up and get 50-50 balls down the field and has made himself into a punishing blocker.
And Granson projects as an athletic receiver. He’ll be moved around the formation in much the same way Trey Burton was in 2020, with Indianapolis looking to get him the ball in a number of different ways.
“He’s been impressive,” Doyle said of the rookie’s early work. “… He seems like a great guy, easy to talk to. (He’s) smooth in running and seems to have a good knowledge of just football in general. We obviously haven’t spent a lot of time with him yet, but – first impressions – he’s been impressive.”
Doyle’s looking for a bounce back year from a personal perspective.
His high-water mark came in back-to-back breakout seasons in 2016-17. During that stretch, he caught 139 passes for 1,274 yards and nine scores and made his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Then came an injury-riddled 2018, in which he played just six games, and a bounce back year in 2019 that saw him catch 43 passes for 448 yards and three touchdowns before making his second Pro Bowl.
Last year, Doyle was targeted just 33 times and had 23 receptions for 251 yards and three scores. His 10.9-yard average reception, however, was a career high.
He was targeted 72 times in 2019, and some of the steep decline was the result of quarterback Philip Rivers’ immobility. Doyle was asked to stay in as an extra blocker more often.
That should change with the athletic Wentz under center, though the exact split between the three primary tight ends likely will vary from week-to-week based on matchups.
Whatever role he earns, Doyle is confident he’s got more than enough left in the tank to help the team.
“I feel really good,” he said during spring OTAs. “I’ve been out there running around, running routes these past few days and just in general working with Carson a little bit on the side. Yeah, I feel really good.”