Tight end Eric Ebron frustrated, seeks bigger role in Colts offense

Tight end Eric Ebron #85 of the Indianapolis Colts. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – By all indications, Frank Reich’s in the need of a new door to his office at the Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center.

If so, he can send the bill to Eric Ebron.

Even though Reich has an open-door policy when it comes to giving his players an opportunity to share concerns, his flamboyant tight end insisted it wasn’t necessary this week.

“Yes, I kicked that door in,’’ Ebron said Thursday afternoon. “He has an open-door policy, and I kicked it in.’’

He was kidding. We think.

But Ebron, his frustrations mounting, was serious about having a bull session with his head coach, and dead serious about wanting to be more involved in the offense moving forward. That starts Sunday against Miami at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“It’s week 8, about that turning point when things are a little more serious, things are a little more real,’’ he said. “It’s only right that you play your best players and we try to win as many games as we can.’’

Ebron considers himself one of those best players. The evidence: his 13 receiving touchdowns a year ago, an Indianapolis Colts’ record for a tight end and tied for the third-most by a tight end in NFL history. His 66 receptions and 750 yards also were career highs and landed him his first Pro Bowl selection.

He’s never shy about lobbying for more playing time, more targets, more catches, more whatever. And he prefers to get involved early in a game.

Ebron smiled as he began to crank up his hype machine.

“I preach it: ‘Put your boy in the game, good things are gonna happen, you know?’’’ he said. “We’ve had our series of talks. This organization is really good when it comes to hearing their players and understanding those players and working with them.

“Hopefully, things change and we get off to a better start.’’

Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni routinely have praised the quality and depth in their tight ends room. Ebron agreed and is urging the coaching staff to better utilize the talent.

Doyle, a 2017 Pro Bowler, has 24 receptions, 232 yards and two TDs on 34 targets. Mo Alie-Cox has been targeted just seven times and has five catches for 49 yards.

“To have the players that we have in our locker room, especially at this position, you would only hope to dominate every single game,’’ Ebron said. “It’s only right we put it in perspective . . . when I’m on the field, things happen no matter what, whether I’m being targeted or not.’’

Is frustration driving his comments?

“There’s always frustration,’’ Ebron said. “As a competitor of the game, just nature, the fact that you can’t (help) and you’re watching your team, it sucks. It definitely sucks. But we’re working on that.’’

What was Reich’s reaction to Ebron’s concerns?

“Oooo,’’ he said, smiling. “We’ll see on Sunday.’’

Thus far, Ebron’s encore for his breakout 2018 has been more fizzle than fantastic.

He’s been on the field for roughly 40% of the snaps and been targeted just 31 times. The result has been 18 receptions, 248 yards and three TDs. In last week’s loss at Pittsburgh, he was on the field for just 34.3% of the snaps, his second-lowest of the season (33.3% at Kansas City). He had two catches for 16 yards on two targets.

It’s difficult to compare one season to the next – injuries, opponents and situations impact everything – but there’s no comparison between Ebron’s first games of 2018 and the first half of this season.

His numbers over the first eight games of ’18: 62 targets, 36 receptions, 394 yards and seven TDs. He was on the field for roughly 56% of the snaps. His exposure and opportunities were greatly influenced as Doyle missed five games with a hip injury.

“Everything is down right now,’’ Ebron said. “We’re working on it.

“Football games, man, you play 40, whatever, 30, 50-some odd plays. It only comes down to three or four of them in reality.’’

Ebron is the type of player whose confidence and effectiveness build the more he’s involved, especially early.

“The earlier the better. The earlier the better,’’ he said. “The later, not as good. But the earlier the better.’’

Ebron has quickly developed a chemistry with Jacoby Brissett.

“That’s my brother, absolutely. That’s my dog,’’ he said. “I’m pretty sure no one will tell you any different.’’

However, Ebron seemed to indicate game plans aren’t being designed with the tight ends in mind.

“He’s bound by what he’s doing, and what he’s doing is what he’s doing,’’ he said.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

And be sure to catch the Colts Blue Zone Podcast:

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