The Washington Times-Herald

Indianapolis Colts

November 25, 2012

Colts need to improve on special teams

INDIANAPOLIS — With the exception of placekickers Mike Vanderjagt and Adam Vinaieri, along with punters Hunter Smith and Pat McAfee, special teams has been anything but for the Indianapolis Colts over the past 12 seasons.

 No matter who the special teams coach may be -- and there have been four (Kevin Spencer, Russ Purnell, Ray Rychelski and, now, Marwan Maalouf -- since the beginning of the 2000 season, the Colts have continually struggled with punt and kick coverage as well as finding reliable (and productive) kickoff and punt returners.
The reasons for the unit's troubles are varied. In recent years, Indianapolis has had problems trying to find good enough people to play on the coverage and return squads. Injuries have certainly played a major factor.
While first-line players rarely, if ever, see special teams duty, the top backups are often used. But when starters get hurt, the top backups are forced to play more. That means the Colts are left with using street free agents and undrafted rookies on special teams.
There have been exceptions over the years, of course. Outside linebacker Robert Mathis was a beast when he played on special teams earlier in his NFL career. He was annually one of the leading tacklers on the special teams unit. In fact, it was his play on special teams that prompted the Colts' coaching staff to get him on the field more often with the No. 1 defensive unit.
Backup defensive tackle Darrell Reid was another Indianapolis player who gained a reputation as a skilled special teams performer. Several of his hard-nosed tackles on kickoff and punt returners were highlighted on ESPN.
But times change. And with the ever-changing makeup at the bottom of the roster, the last five or six spots on the team, continuity then becomes a major issue. The same people aren't always on the field on special teams for every game.

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