Old Legs Kicking And Young Legs Gunning
Notable players: Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee, Kerwynn Williams, Joe Lefeged
One-word description: Verge
It’s always the most underrated aspect of a football team – special teams. You could be incredible on both offense and defense, but you still need special teams to set up good field position and be reliable on field goals and extra points.
The Indianapolis Colts have been fortunate enough to possess one of the league’s best punter-kicker combinations over the past few years in Pat McAfee and Adam Vinatieri, which has resulted in superb special teams play. But going into the 2013 NFL season, multiple special teamers seem to be on the verge of big turning points in their respective careers.
The biggest piece of all, Vinatieri, might be entering his final season in the NFL. The all-time great is entering the final year of his three-year contract. Considering he’s going to turn 41 in December, the Colts most likely will not resign Vinatieri and look for young talent either in next year’s draft or through undrafted free agency. We have seen kickers produce well into their 40s however, so Vinatieri staying on board in 2014 and beyond certainly is possible.
A big reason for Vinatieri’s possible departure is his punting teammate. McAfee has already proven to be one of the league’s best punters, displaying his supreme leg strength early in his career, then controlling it and becoming more accurate the past couple seasons. Now, it sounds like he may get a shot to try kicking, too. He already is the kickoff specialist, and he has expressed the desire to tryout field goals. If he is successful in doing so, this would be a great advantage for the Colts. They could use one less roster spot on special teams and use it at a more important position to create depth and competition. McAfee’s certainly got the leg to pull it off. The only question will be his accuracy. If he really wants to do this, he’s got a year of practice to field goals down.
The youngster of the special teams unit looks to be Kerwynn Williams. The 5 foot 8 inch running back was selected in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft not to be a featured ball-carrier, but to take over the returning duties. He was an electric returner at Utah State, which will almost certainly carry over to the pros. His role with the team will also allow 2012 rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to focus solely on the passing game and stay a little fresher.
Safety Joe Lefeged is the final special teams member who looks like he may be on the verge of a turning point in his career. Like Vinatieri, it’s a negative one. Lefeged was arrested on June 30 for gun-related charges and may not be welcomed back to Indianapolis because of it. After proving to be mediocre as a safety, Lefeged found his true calling last year as a special teamer. He was voted to be a special teams captain and especially thrived on the punt coverage team. Instead of building off his success, Lefeged may have to start over on a new team.
With different possibilities for so many key special teamers, it’s nearly impossible to predict what the unit will look like after a year. In the best case scenario, McAfee replaces Vinatieri at kicker and is just as good at field goals as he is punts, Williams becomes the next great return specialist and Lefeged is allowed back on the team and gets even better with special teams experience under his belt. On the other hand, McAfee could be an awful field goal kicker, the Colts could draft a new kicker that turns into a bust, Williams could be a bust and Lefeged could be cut from the team. There almost certainly will be some sort of middle ground between those scenarios, but the exact extent that each is successful or unsuccessful is yet to be seen. Only time will tell.