INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July — and the start of training camp — upon us, it’s time for the Indianapolis Colts’ Burning Questions series.
We wrap up today with the special teamers:
» Who will earn jobs as the Colts’ primary returners in 2019?
What could be very interesting about the various Colts position battles during training camp and the preseason in the coming weeks is the influence the kickoff and punt returner jobs could have on who makes the 53-man roster. Take the wide receiver position, for example: the Colts are returning their primary kickoff and punt returners from 2018 in Zach Pascal and Chester Rogers, but others are sure to get shots to show what they can do at those spots, too — guys like Parris Campbell and Penny Hart, both rookies. And what about second-year running back Nyheim Hines, who has plenty of explosive potential as a returner? Heck, T.Y. Hilton’s always ready to go should they need him as a returner, too. So while all these guys will need to perform well at their respective positions the next couple months, there’s no doubt that the players that step up as returners will be at an advantage when it comes to final roster cuts.
» Will Rigoberto Sanchez catapult himself into the Pro Bowl conversation?
Defensive tackle/end Denico Autry, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, center Ryan Kelly and linebacker Darius Leonard are examples of Colts players last year who could’ve made legitimate arguments to be named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster, and all four were rightfully named Pro Bowl alternates. But one could also make an argument for another Colts Pro Bowl snub: punter Rigoberto Sanchez. Sanchez finished third in the NFL in net punting average (42.7) and his 59 kickoff touchbacks ranked fifth in the league; he was a major reason why Indy ranked first in the NFL in lowest punt return average allowed (4.4 yards) and ninth in kickoff return average (22 yards). The Colts have been very fortunate to have some of the league’s top punters going back several years now, and that trend has definitely continued with Sanchez, who looks to earn his first-career Pro Bowl selection — and the first by a Colts punter since Pat McAfee in 2016 — in 2019.
» How many more records does Adam Vinatieri have left to break?
The 2018 season was a memorable one for Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who became the NFL’s all-time leader in career field goals made and points scored, topping Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen in both categories. So while the more “major” kicking records now belong to Vinatieri, he still has a few in his sights in his 24th NFL season in 2019. With 20 field goal attempts, he will pass Andersen (709) for the most career field goal attempts in NFL history. With nine converted field goals from 30-39 yards, he will pass Gary Anderson (191) for the second-most made field goals from that distance in league history. With four converted field goals of 50-plus yards, he will pass Matt Prater (46) for the third-most made field goals from that distance. With one game played he will pass Anderson (353) for the second-most games played in NFL history; and he can also move from sixth place into second place in Colts franchise history by playing in 15 games, passing Rohn Stark and Jeff Saturday (197), Johnny Unitas (206) and Peyton Manning (208) along the way. So we’ll certainly keep an eye out as Vinny continues adding to his Hall of Fame résumé in 2019.