After drafting two top-tier tight ends the Colts are widely-viewed as perhaps moving towards a Patriots-style offense. We all know the Colts loved to run two tight-ends in Manning’s early career so there is a precedent for that preference.
Matt Bowen at the National Football Post has an excellent series in which he explains some of these concepts including the Patriots two-tight end, three wideout formation with the widely lauded “smash 7” route package:
Start with the personnel and the alignment. This is nothing more than a “slot open” formation (3 WRs to the open side), but the alignment of Hernandez will impact the pre-snap adjustments for the secondary. The defense has to treat Hernandez as the RB (or “R”). But I can tell you that whenever a receiver is aligned in the backfield, it causes confusion from a defensive perspective.
That’s where the confusion begins. You’ll note that both Hernandez and Gronkowski are aligned on the strong side of the field with Hernandez in the backfield. The weak side grouping of three receivers will run a set of routes that in include two hook ins underneath and a corner post high. Hernandez will run a hook in from the strong side while Gronkowski will run a corner post. Zone defenses can’t defend either corner route without safety help. Man defenses have to trust smaller DBs against Gronkowski for a jump ball. In both cases you get a speedy Hernandez and likely Wes Welker against linebackers in many situations. In all this is a headache for defenses in the red zone.
Is this something we’ll see in Indianapolis? Perhaps, but it’s an interesting approach to the red zone with two tight-ends.