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Special Teams Burning Questions Heading Into Training Camp

Posted Jul 22, 2014

Intro: After back-to-back playoff appearances, the Colts have the foundation set for a deep playoff run. What’s in store on the special teams units heading into the 2014 training camp?



INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts bring back some marquee names in the kicking department.

In 2013, the Colts couldn’t break one in the return game and they now go into 2014 with some uncertainty at kick returner.

Here’s a look at the special teams burning questions heading into training camp.

How will Adam Vinatieri follow up a career year in his 19th NFL season?

Any season of 35 made field goals should never be taken for granted.

Then throw in that Vinatieri did that at the age of 4, and 19 of those field goals came from at least 40 yards, it was arguably the best of the 18 NFL seasons for the future Hall of Famer.

Vinatieri jokes that there’s plenty of lead left in that right leg and last year was a strong indication of that.

Last year, he was 19-of-23 on field goals of at least 40 yards. Vinatieri’s previous high from that distance was 11 made field goals.

Chuck Pagano could sleep easy this offseason knowing that he’s returning one of the top kicker-punter duos in the league in Vinatieri and Pat McAfee.

Having Vinatieri waiting in the wings once you cross into opponent’s territory is very calming.

While Vinatieri continues to rewrite the record books, he remains a kicker any coach would love to run out there with the game on the line.

STAT TO NOTE: Vinatieri’s 16 100-point seasons is tied for the most in NFL history.

Will Pat McAfee continue to be a weapon for the Colts?

When McAfee talks about the Colts special teams units, he compares the coverage units to trying to set up a full court defense to defend.

McAfee is the man at the top of that “press” and his presence has set up several turnovers during his handful of years in Indianapolis.

He’s been a weapon for the Colts special teams and his contributions in hidden yardage should not be undermined.

Sergio Brown received a ton of attention for his special teams play last year but even he credited McAfee at every chance for providing the proper hang time.

There’s no reason to think McAfee will drop off from his recent years, even though the expectations are very high for one of the game’s better punters.

STAT TO NOTE: Last season, McAfee set a Colts franchise record with 27 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

Who will be the Colts returners in 2014?

Let’s start with punt return.

T.Y. Hilton seems to be the obvious choice as he was the team’s punt returner until Reggie Wayne went down in Week Seven.

With Hilton then having much more responsibility offensively, Griff Whalen became the team’s punt returner and filled in nicely.

The receiver position has been bolstered which allows for Hilton to return to punt return duties, if need be.

At kick return, there are virtually no proven candidates.

Of the eight kick returners the Colts had last season, only three are still on the roster and Chris Rainey is the lone guy with more than one return in 2013.

Rainey is kind of the X-factor in the return game. If he makes the 53-man roster, his electric ability would come in handy on special teams.

Rookie Donte Moncrief should get a crack at the return positions as well.

STAT TO NOTE: The longest returns for the Colts in 2013 came from David Reed on kick (39 yards) and Griff Whalen on punt (51 yards).

 


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