INDIANAPOLIS –Pat McAfee was solid in 2011 when he set a club seasonal punting record with a 46.6 average on 88 efforts, and his 39.2 net average was second-best in Colts history for one year.
McAfee has performed to an even greater level in 2012, mixing a solid mental approach to his physical ability, and Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians believes it is a Pro Bowl-type season.
"There's no doubt," said Arians. "He has improved in what we've been asking him to do, and he's working at the directional stuff and just doing a great job of pinning some great punt returners on the sideline for us."
This past week against Tennessee, a 52-yard directional punt by McAfee went out at the one-yard line. One play later, cornerback Cassius Vaughn intercepted a pass and stepped into the end zone to give the Colts a 21-20 lead in an eventual 27-23 victory.
It marked the third time this year Indianapolis returned an interception for a score, with each coming after a McAfee punt pinned the opposition inside its five-yard line.
Special teams coach Marwan Maalouf is in his first year with McAfee, and he sees a dedicated worker physically and technically.
"Pat understands punting. He understands when he misdrops a ball, his footwork, just the small details that you hope a lot of punters know. He's exceptional at that," said Maalouf. "Pat really studies himself and studies film. He's really meticulous with how he punts."
McAfee ranks fifth in the league with a 48.8 average, while his 40.6 net mark ranks 12th. In five games this year, he has had a 50 -yard average, including three straight outings at 51.2, 50.0 and 53.3 yards.
Nine times, McAfee's net average has exceeded 40.0 yards. He has three straight games with more than a 45.0 net mark, including 49.8 last week against Tennessee.
"Pat's attitude always has been great," said Maalouf. "He's really reinvented himself, and starting from scratch with the process has helped him. Starting with the basics and growing each week as a professional punter are what I notice about him.
"He's one of the guys who sit in the room and sees everything. That's how he is with film. He'll see the little things that might be able to help him when we're scheming against a punt rush. He's a smart guy. I don't know that people give him enough credit for that."
Maalouf served from 2004-06 in a special teams role at Cleveland before moving to Baltimore in a same capacity from 2008-11. Chuck Pagano was on the same Baltimore staff and with a special teams background himself in college, a heavy emphasis was placed on it this year when they joined Indianapolis.
Maalouf credits McAfee with being strong when critiquing is necessary because, "not every day is roses. There are some days when he doesn't punt well. Those are the times we look at film to see how we can get it corrected. He's really studying himself in how to be an elite punter."
While McAfee enjoys a very public personality in Indianapolis, Maalouf sees only a business-like attitude during the week.
"When he comes into our room and when he's on the field, he's working on becoming the best punter in the league. That's what his goal is," said Maalouf. "He's on year four, and he hasn't even begun to peak. Look at Vinny (Adam Vinatieri), he's in year 17 and he's still booming the ball.
"Pat is just starting. I always saw the talent in Pat. Becoming a perennial All-Pro means you're doing it year-in and year-out on a consistent level. I think he's on his way to doing that. The upside is in the next couple of years, if not even longer."