Our special teams have improved greatly this year. We've only had problems (previously) with kickoff coverage. (The) return game is a function largely of the returner. If you have a dynamic returner, you're going to have good returns as you saw with T.J. (Rushing Sunday) on the punt return. Punting has never been a problem for us. It cropped up briefly for us last year, but we rectified that. Punt blocking, punt coverage never has been a problem. Kickoff coverage has been the problem, and we rectified that. They had one run Sunday that got out a little long, but instead of breaking it for 70 yards they broke it for 35, and we were able to contain them and make them punt the ball on the ensuing series of downs. That's what you need to do, and we improved greatly in that area.
Since early last year, punt and kick coverages have dramatically improved. We are not seeing Indy getting torn to pieces by mediocre returners, and then later getting KILLED by dynamic returners. Even the Chargers Darren Sproles was well contained in both games Indy faced San Diego last year.
Also, last year Adam Vinatieri upped his game by working on and developing his kickoff range. Vinatieri had been decent in his two years previous, but was hampered by injuries. Still, even an injured Vinatieri was better at kickoffs than Mike Vanderjagt, whose kicks which would land around the 15 yard line. Hell, it made more sense to kick the friggin thing out of bounds.
Now, with rookie Pat McAfee replacing Hunter Smith as the punter and Adam Vinatieri as the kickoff man, both the kickoffs and the punting have improved. While Vinatieri was often consistent and would provide a few good touchbacks here and there, McAfee is practically blasting the ball out the back of the Luke's retractable windows!
As we saw Sunday, T.J. Rushing is far and away the best returner the Colts have, and it is a welcome site to have him back. After injuring his knee in pre-season last year, he still seems to still have some moves in the open field.
One area that has me a tad concerned is field goal blocking. The FG Adam Vinatieri missed against the Cardinals (and the extra point that was nearly blocked prior to that) were a result of spotty blocking on the left side. I know some folks are ready to pounce on Vinatieri and scream until he's run out of town (why, I don't know), but the fact of the matter is he is the best kicker this franchise has ever had. He is slowly getting back into form after surgery this off-season, and the team obviously respects him. They voted him Captain of Special Teams, along with Melvin Bullitt.
Finally, I don't think it takes much to determine that Bill Polian did not think highly of Russ Purnell, the Colts former special teams coach and the current special teams coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team has "improved greatly" and the two changes that were made this off-season were not re-signing Hunter Smith and saying "thank you, bye-bye" to Purnell.