Special Teams Burning Questions Heading Into Colts Training Camp
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INDIANAPOLIS – All the questions the Colts face heading into their 2018 Training Camp will see answers develop in front of fans at Grand Park.
On Wednesday, July 25, the Colts will report to work in Westfield for three and a half weeks, with a joint practice session against the Baltimore Ravens concluding things on Saturday, Aug. 18.
After looking at the offense last week, it’s time for 1070TheFan.com to conclude this series with the special teams.
Here’s a look at the special teams burning questions with Training Camp nearing:
-Is This Adam Vinatieri’s Final Season In The NFL?
Vinny says he wants to play past the 2018 season.
Heading into his 23rd NFL season, and on the verge of holding every major kicking record, Vinny isn’t looking at 2018 as his ride off into the sunset.
The 45-year-old kicker re-signed a one-year deal with the Colts back in February, after another successful campaign in which he was 29-of-34 on field goals, with 4 of his 5 misses coming in awful weather.
By the midway point of 2018, Vinny should have two distinct NFL records.
He’s 7 field goals and 58 points shy of passing Morten Andersen for the most field goals ever (565) and the most points scored (2,544).
With 4 Super Bowl rings already, Vinatieri retiring after 2018 (and re-writing the NFL record books) would make a lot of sense.
But this is a guy who is kicking at an extremely high level and says he isn’t ready to retire just yet.
STAT TO NOTE: When Vinatieri turns 46 years old in late December, he will become the 3rd oldest player in NFL history.
-Who will be the returners for the Colts in 2018?
The kicking game really doesn’t offer too many questions for the Colts in 2018.
But the return game has some questions to be answered.
With Quan Bray now gone, the Colts have openings at both the kick and punt return spots for new special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone.
Guys in the mix for those return spots include Chester Rogers, Josh Ferguson, Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack. We even saw T.Y. Hilton field some punts during the spring.
One would think that Rogers and Hines could be the favorites.
Rogers has experience returning punts in the NFL and his ball security/decision making has improved back there.
Hines enters the NFL with tremendous return ability, with two kick returns for a touchdown in his days at North Carolina State.
Mack and, obviously, Hilton are too important to the offense to risk either back there on returns.
Of course, with the new kickoff rules it remains to be seen how many returns we will actually see in 2018.
STAT TO NOTE: The last time the Colts returned a punt for a touchdown was T.Y. Hilton in the 2012 season.
-What changes will new special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone bring?
Speaking of changes, the Colts have a first-time special teams coordinator in Bubba Ventrone coming over from New England.
Ventrone, 35, actually was a teammate of Adam Vinatieri’s back in 2005 with the Patriots.
The task for Ventrone with the Colts will be to keep the special teams units among one of the team’s strengths.
He will also have to do that with some new rule changes coming in 2018.
-No running start for the kickoff coverage team.
-Kickoff team must have 5 players on each side of the ball.
-Return team must have 8 players in the 15-yard ‘setup zone’ prior to the kickoff.
-No wedge blocks.
The preseason should allow for some experimentation to see how teams deal with the drastic change in kickoffs.
STAT TO NOTE: Rigoberto Sanchez finished his rookie season 9th in the NFL in touchbacks (46) and in touchback percentage (65.7).