Coming out of the 2018 spring training program, there are early indications of progress and setbacks at numerous positions for the Indianapolis Colts. During the summer break period of the off-season, we will take a look at each position on the Colts roster as compared to where it was at this time a year ago and try to project how the roster will look in September.
We continue on the defensive side of the ball but move to the second level, focusing on the linebackers. At this point, no position on the roster is more wide open for competition.
Adam Vinatieri Projected to Make History
Barring injury, Adam Vinatieri should move into first all-time on the NFL scoring list. He needs only 58 points to pass Morten Andersen. For reference, with a hampered offense in 2017 he scored 109 points. He will move into second all-time in field goals made with 10 in 2018.
He will also move within striking distance of Andersen’s all-time record for field goals made — where he needs 36.
Rigoberto Sanchez is a Promising Young Punter
As a rookie, Rigoberto Sanchez was one of the most efficient punters in the NFL. Make no mistake, he doesn’t have the kind of leg Pat McAfee did but he could be even better than the “Boomstick” at the chip shots and coffin corner kicks that pin opponents deep in their own territory. He is a coverage friendly punter who gets hang time and rarely allows returners any chance to make big plays. Even on kickoffs the ball seems to hang in the air, allowing the coverage team time to cut off running lanes.
It will be interesting to see how Sanchez has worked on his game after a full off-season with professional trainers and kicking specialists.
Coverage and Return Specialists Fill Roster Depth
I cannot think of a time that there were more legitimate special teams aces on a Colts team. If you’re looking to swat down a couple of kicks, you have Margus Hunt and Denico Autry who have been incredible at doing so throughout their careers. If you’re looking for speed from your gunner, Kenny Moore was regularly on top of returners when the ball finally arrived from Sanchez. If you’re looking for options at returner, Nyheim Hines, Chester Rogers, and T.Y. Hilton are all capable of making big plays.
Ultimately, there are reasons to be confident that the Colts can have a reasonably strong coverage unit again this season. There are disruptive talents in each phase on special teams who could help keep points off of the board or steal away a possession.
How Will Rule Changes Impact Special Teams?
Player safety is one of the primary focuses for the NFL and its competition committee every off-season. No part of the game receives heavier scrutiny than the return game. There are more violent collisions on kickoffs and punts on a per play basis than at any other time in a football game.
A couple of seasons ago, the NFL tried to reduce these collisions by moving up the spot for kickoffs, increasing touch backs. This year, the NFL will make it illegal to place large players in front of the returner in a wedge. Wedge breakers would essentially torpedo into these players clear the way for would-be tacklers behind them. The physics involved in those collisions are pretty nasty to even think about.
How the changes will impact returns is yet to be seen. There are reasons to believe that the changes favor the coverage units — the object being to discourage high speed collisions. Until we see the rules in action it is impossible to gauge how they may impact the way teams build their rosters moving forward.