Special teams is often the forgotten aspect of the game, as teams, fans, and media focus so much on offense and defense that sometimes the specialists can be overlooked. With the Indianapolis Colts, however, their special teams unit is among the strongest areas of the team.
Both punter Pat McAfee and kicker Adam Vinatieri were both named to the Pro Bowl last year and were both named first-team All-Pros at their respective positions, forming what was unquestionably the league's best kicking duo. McAfee averaged 46.7 yards per punt in 2014 and a career-high 42.8 net yards per punt, also pinning 30 punts inside the 20-yard line (breaking his own franchise record). He had just three touchbacks on punts and didn't have one blocked, while on kickoffs he led the NFL in touchbacks and led the NFL with three successful onside kicks, even recovering one of them himself. He continued in his role as the holder for Vinatieri, made a few tackles, and attempted a pass just for good measure. In short, McAfee can do it all and it arguably the league's best punter and the league's best special teams player period. He contributes by punting, kicking off, holding, and tackling - all of which he does well.
Vinatieri had an equally impressive 2014 season, though, as he made 30 out of 31 field goal attempts - leading the league by hitting 96.8% of his attempts, which was also the highest single-season percentage for any kicker since Mike Vandgerjagt finished the 2003 season perfect. He made it through the first 15 and a half games perfect before missing in the third quarter of the regular season finale. He hit on all 50 of his extra point attempts as well. He was arguably the league's best field goal kicker in 2014, and the future Hall of Famer had his best season yet. Entering 2015, 42-year old still has plenty of leg left to make a significant impact for the Colts.
The third member of the Colts' fourth down army is long snapper Matt Overton, who signed a 4-year, $4 million extension with the team this offseason, making him the highest-paid long snapper in 2015. He made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and has done a good job for the Colts in his three years with the team.
The trio of McAfee, Vinatieri, and Overton make up a very strong special teams unit for the Colts, but their return game isn't nearly as strong. Last year's addition of Josh Cribbs was supposed to help the return game but didn't. This year, that will be a spot to watch in training camp and preseason as a number of players will certainly get a shot, but it's currently expected that Phillip Dorsett, the team's first round pick, will fill in at kick and punt returner. Other players, like Donte Moncrief or Griff Whalen, could factor in as well, but it looks like Dorsett is the first choice currently.
The Colts' special teams unit is among the strongest in the league and one of the strongest areas for the Colts, and if they could get some help from their return game it would only make it better. As long as Pat McAfee and Adam Vinatieri are kicking for the Colts, however, special teams should be a strong point for the team.
For more in-depth analysis of the Colts' roster heading into camp, check out Josh Wilson's other position previews: