Within all of the different aspects in which the Indianapolis Colts have been struggling to put a quality product on the field, all hasn’t been lost in the transition of the roster. The Colts signed several free agents who can be presumed to be assets for the future such as John Simon, Johnathan Hankins and Jabaal Sheard, but the holes are still there for the majority of the defense.
This is obviously weighing down any of the positive that we were feeling through the offseason in hopes that the Colts could at least put a competitive roster on the field even though Chuck Pagano was still leading the team.
The Colts draft — the first of GM Chris Ballard’s career — is largely considered a win a this time when viewing it through potential colored glasses. But, one of the largest offseason losses was Pat McAfee and his ability to flip the field with his leg. Additionally, the Colts had a really nice special teams group last season.
Originally, the Colts signed Jeff Locke as the clear favorite to take over kickoff and punting duties as he carried in a solid resume of pinning teams deep in their own territory. But, Rigoberto Sanchez came in signed as an UDFA and there was a legit competition for that spot on the roster.
The rest is history, but Sanchez didn’t just earn a roster spot, he’s exceeded all expectations for the Colts and has been one of the few bright spots this season. Per Joe Marino, who has Sanchez as one of his top UDFAs of the season thus far, Sanchez currently leads the league in punts inside of the 20-yard line, is fourth in net yards per punt and has forced touchbacks on 70 percent (21 of 30) of his kickoffs.
But, the kickoff crew deserves some high praise as well. As mentioned above, the 2016 special teams group was very good. In fact they were 5th according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA model. This isn’t exactly the easiest thing to accomplish with widespread turnover on the roster.
Tom McMahon and Maurice Drayton have done a really nice job of getting these guys on task each and every week, staying in their lanes and keeping returns to a minimum. At the moment the Colts’ special teams is only allowing 18.5 yards per return, and the unit as a whole is 7th in the league.
For McAfee being one of the larger holes to fill this season, Sanchez has done it without batting an eye. If Sanchez can continue what he’s showing right now, the Colts may come out on top of losing one of the best punters in the league last season.
It should be noted that Sanchez is no slouch as a place kicker either. If there was ever a thought that McAfee could hold triple duty for the Colts at some point, it can be argued that Sanchez is legitimately in a great position to actually make that a reality.
If the Colts can get something started on either side of the line of scrimmage, they know that the special teams unit isn’t going to let them down when it comes to doing their job.