Though the media often struggles to recognize its importance, the Indianapolis Colts’ special teams unit was absolutely paramount to the team’s success last season.
From undrafted kicker Rodrigo Blankenship defying the odds and becoming spectacularly dependable after winning the job in training camp, to the rare blocked kick and big return, the group came up with no shortage of big moments in 2020.
When it comes to the kicker position, however, it would appear the Colts aren’t as sold on Blankenship as they appeared to be last season when he was knocking down field goals left and right and making a strong push for the league lead in total points.
Remember after the draft when word spread Indy was working out Eddy Pineiro? Well, it seems as though the former Bears kicker impressed during his tryout, because the Colts signed him to a one-year contract on Thursday.
Does the Colts signing Eddy Pineiro to a one-year deal suggest they’re losing faith in Rodrigo Blankenship?
Blankenship hasn’t lost his starting job yet, but there’s no doubting he needs to earn the long-term gig in Indianapolis and this move proves the Colts don’t think an impressive rookie year earned him the right to walk into his sophomore season as the undisputed starter.
Though the Georgia product drilled 32-of-37 (86.5%) of his field goal attempts and 43-of-45 extra-point tries (95.5%), he was erratic from beyond 50 yards, converting just one of his three attempts from that range. To say his lack of leg strength hamstrung the Colts’ offense when it crossed midfield would be an understatement.
Another red flag for Blankenship cropped up in Indianapolis’ first-round playoff matchup against the Bills when he missed a 33-yard chip shot. As fans remember, the Colts ended up losing that game by a final score of 27-24, so that missed loomed incredibly large.
That miss indicated that Blankenship got the yips in a high-pressure situation, and that’s the absolute last thing a playoff-hopeful team should want in its kicker. Taking all of that into account, it just makes sense for the Colts to sign a starting-caliber kicker before training camp.
While Pineiro was sidelined for the entirety of last season due to a lingering groin injury, he was virtually automatic for Chicago in 2019, when he made 23-of-28 (82.1%) of his field goal tries and 27-of-29 (93.1%) extra points. The former undrafted talent out of Florida also came up in the clutch numerous times for the Bears, which included drilling a game-winner against Denver.
Let’s not pretend like Blankenship doesn’t have the upper hand on Pineiro. The 24-year-old technically didn’t do anything to lose the starting job. He just better be at the top of his game throughout training camp, because the Pineiro signing suggests the Colts will have no trouble pulling the plug on him if his struggles from distance continue.