Colts Special Teams Poised to be Great Again
By Evan Reller
The Indianapolis Colts had an excellent special team’s unit in 2014. A nearly perfect kicker and a punter who might have had his leg surgically replaced with a cannon.
Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee were both voted first team All-Pro this season. They were the headliners of a unit that really gave the Colts a distinct advantage in games. Opposing offenses started their drives, on average, at the 25.44 yard line, which was fourth in the league (practically tied for first).
Over at Colts.com, Kevin Bowen spoke with special team’s coach Tom McMahon about how this unit has become so dominant.
"“If you are afraid to say the words ‘Super Bowl’, you (aren’t) ever going to get there. That’s an expectation,” McMahon, the Colts special teams coordinator, said last week.“From a special teams perspective, the biggest thing we want to earn, to achieve that goal (Super Bowl), is we want to win the drive start average, every single game. If we win the drive start average, we allow our offense to play half court offense.”"
Where the Colts need to improve on special teams is the return game. Future Hall of Famer Vinatieri has field goals covered, and McAfee’s booming punts and touchbacks on kickoffs ensures long drives for opponents. But giving the offense better starting field position will really put the pressure on opponents.
The Colts have a plethora of talent on offense, specifically at the skill positions like wide receiver. There might not be enough snaps to go around, but that doesn’t mean some of these players can’t contribute.
Donte Moncrief was apparently taking reps as a punt returner during OTAs and minicamp. He was doing so alongside fellow wide receiver Duron Carter and running backs Dan Herron and Josh Robinson. It sounds like Phillip Dorsett is a lock to be the team’s punt returner (so much speed).
"“There are roles you got to have. Somebody’s got to be your enforcer. You’ve got to have those guys that are your penetrators, your disrupters, that have the speed that are hard to block. When we cover kicks, we need two guys that are thumpers,” McMahon says outlining his special teams group.“I don’t worry about what was lost, it’s just a matter of getting that identity in your room that whatever we need, somebody is going to step up. I’m starting to see all those different spots. They are emerging. We are going to be just fine. We have good, tough, hard-nosed football players that care a hell of a lot about the ‘Shoe.”"
Dorsett has some experience as a kick and punt returner from college, but the same can’t be said of Moncrief or Robinson. Herron returned just six kickoffs in college and four in the pros. But a lack of experience doesn’t mean that these players can’t be special with the ball in their hands.
Kick returner will be an interesting position battle to watch in training camp, and one that might be decided by how valuable a player is on offense (or by who does the smart thing and takes a knee five yards deep in the end zone instead of running it out).
The Colts are going to field another great special teams unit in 2015, and we could see even better results this time around.