Colts: Mo Alie-Cox’s absence will prove how valuable he is to Indy’s offense

Colts TE Mo Alie-Cox has been ruled out for Sunday against the Bengals.

Remember when head coach Frank Reich assured reporters that tight end Mo Alie-Cox would maintain his prominent role — both as a pass catcher and run blocker — after veterans Jack Doyle and Trey Burton returned from injury?

Well, it turns out those guarantees should have fallen on deaf ears as Alie-Cox has seen his snap count drop in each of the last three games. The numbers become all the more alarming when you look at his reduced playing time over the last two contests.

In that span, the third-year pro has seen the field for an average of 42% of the Colts’ offensive snaps while managing just one reception for 13 yards (and a touchdown) on three targets. For context, Alie-Cox was a focal point of Indianapolis’ offense for the first three weeks of the season, tallying 10 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown while playing 55% of the snaps.

If you want to come to terms with his importance to the Colts, look no further than how poor Rivers and Co. looked against Cleveland in Week 5, when he was limited with a leg injury and took a clear back seat to Burton.

Well, Reich will ironically get a taste of his own medicine on Sunday as Alie-Cox was downgraded to out for Sunday’s game versus Cincinnati.

We would have loved to see Alie-Cox feast on the Bengals’ bottom-barrel secondary, but his absence could prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Colts.

With Burton running the most routes of Indy’s tight ends, he only managed 33 yards on his five receptions. As sure-handed as the Florida product is, he (unlike Alie-Cox) really offers nothing as a vertical threat. The longest reception of his career came two seasons ago and went for 47 yards. In 2019, his longest came in the form of a 16-yard yard catch.

The debate points even more in Alie-Cox’s favor when you consider how dependable he is as a run blocker — he’s earned a 91.3 grade from Pro Football Focus through five games. Burton is a nice player, but blocking has always been considered the weakest aspect of his game, so it’s not surprising that PFF has given him a 64.6 grade for his efforts thus far.

We haven’t even mentioned Doyle, who’s become an afterthought in the passing game despite leading the TE snap count ( 62%) over the last two weeks. The fact that he’s been eating into Alie-Cox’s playing time is nothing short of maddening, and, though were obviously rooting for a win, we seriously hope the former college basketball star’s absence is felt by the Colts so they’re practically forced to give him more reps when he returns from injury.