Special Teams Burning Questions Heading Into OTAs

Intro: The Colts special teams unit was among the league’s best in 2014. What’s in store for the Colts special teams units heading into the team’s offseason program?

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INDIANAPOLIS –Led by an All-Pro kicking duo, the Colts special teams was among the best units in the NFL last season.

The only thing missing from having the top, unquestioned, special teams group were a few long returns (10th in kickoff coverage and 3rd in punt coverage last season).

Here's a look at the special teams burning questions heading into the team's offseason program.

  • Who will return kicks/punts for the Colts in 2014?

The search for a consistent return man remains ongoing for the Colts.

Josh Cribbs showed some flashes in 2014 and is back for a second season.

If Cribbs' ball security improves and he proves to still have enough wiggle, at the age of 32 (turns 32 in June), he would appear to be the early favorite.

However, what you always run into in finding a return man is roster mechanics.

Cribbs is solely a returner, so his value on a 53-man roster comes in just a handful of plays each game.

If the Colts have their fourth running back, or fifth receiver, or a reserve cornerback fill the return role, that would obviously be more ideal.

One option could be Boom Herron. He has had reps as a kick returner in prior years and could slide back into that role while still being involved in the offense.

Former Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps is also going to be one to watch this offseason.

Speed obviously isn't an issue for Demps, but the question for him comes in protecting the ball and finding a role outside of return duties to make his roster spot worth it.

STAT TO NOTE: Josh Cribbs' 11,113 kickoff return yards are the third most in NFL history.**

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  • Is Adam Vinatieri ever going to show his age?

NFL season No. 20 for Adam Vinatieri comes with the future Hall of Famer turning 43 in December.

One could certainly argue that the 2014 campaign for Vinatieri was his best.

He banged home 30-of-31 field goals with his lone miss coming in the regular season finale at Tennessee.

In 75 percent of the Colts games last season, Vinatieri connected on at least two field goals and he was the closest thing to a sure fire three points as any in the NFL.

Physically, there was not an ounce of regression from Vinatieri.

As Vinatieri says, "there's plenty of lead" left in his leg and that has been seen the last two seasons.

It's a contract year for Vinatieri so the retirement question will inevitably arise once the 2015 season ends.

The drive for another Super Bowl ring (his fifth) and a few individual records has Vinatieri still kicking in his 40s.

STAT TO NOTE: Adam Vinatieri's 35 consecutive field goals made from 2013-2014 was the fourth longest streak in NFL history.**

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  • How versatile is Pat McAfee?

Labeled as a "specialist", Pat McAfee's impact on the game is much more than one specific duty.

His punting prowess is objective No. 1 and whether it's his leg strength, or the need to angle one inside the 20-yard line, McAfee is among the game's best.

The Colts won the field position battle in every game but one last season and McAfee spearheaded that effort.

McAfee's 70 touchbacks were the second most for a single season in NFL history.

The highlights for McAfee from 2014 were his three successful onside kicks, a remarkable feat for a play with such a low success rate.

One area that will change for McAfee this season is the personnel on his coverage units.

The Colts did not re-sign key special teams players Sergio Brown and Andy Studebaker in the offseason.

STAT TO NOTE: Pat McAfee set franchise records for punts pinned inside the 20-yard line (30) and net punting average (42.8) last season.

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