Its unlikely any other team in the NFL is as excited as the Colts about the offseason rules change that puts kickoffs at the 35-yard line.
The Colts have one of the best kickoff men, punter Pat McAfee, whose leg is so strong he was booting 75-yard field goals in the offseason.
And the Colts have a kick-coverage team that has proved porous in recent seasons.
There couldnt have been a better rule (change) for the Colts, said McAfee, whose Colts play host to the Washington Redskins in an exhibition game at 7 tonight.
Our kickoff return team wasnt as great as we wanted it to be last year. Our coverage lacked a little bit, which was a combination of my fault and the teams fault.
But there shouldnt be many returns if I do my job right, which is exciting for us. Hopefully well take advantage of it. Hopefully Ill take advantage of it.
The kickoffs were moved from the 30-yard line for safety reasons.
I think a lot has changed within the structure of the game for a number of different reasons – not just for competitive balance, but also more safety, which I think is extremely important in this one, Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. More than anything else, it helps the safety of our players, and Im all for that. Theyre trying to minimize the acceleration, but these guys can still get up to speed pretty quickly.
Hopefully it will do exactly what its intended to do, and thats create an atmosphere where we still keep the traditional aspect of the game in kicking it off but minimize some of the high-impact collisions.
Last season, the Colts allowed opponents an average kickoff return of 25.8 yards, second worst to only Baltimores 26 yards. The Colts 16 touchbacks ranked 10th.
The low point was Antonio Cromarties 47-yard return that set up the New York Jets winning field goal in the 17-16 playoff victory at Lucas Oil Stadium last winter.
I do believe that at some point in time, whether thats at the end of the season or youre (playing) outdoors, that youre going to see some of those (kicked off) balls coming back at you and youre going to really need to have good coverage teams, Caldwell said.
While the new rule may help the Colts coverage unit, the effect on their return game may be minimal.
Indianapolis ranked 29th with an average of 19.6 yards per return last year. Devin Moore, who didnt get a return in the 33-10 preseason loss at St. Louis last weekend, will be the main return man tonight. Indianapolis offense has shown it can overcome starting at the 20-yard line. Last year, the Colts had more drives of 10 or more plays than any team in the NFL.