Thursday, May 1, 2008

Looking Forward to 2008: Special Teams

In 2007, special teams was one of the biggest problems for the Colts. It cost the Colts the first Chargers games, and it wasn't helpful in the 2007 Playoffs Super Bowl run. The Colts haven't had a great returner since Brad Pyatt, who had his career ended by injury. The kickoff coverage is mediocre outside of Darrell Reid. The punt coverage is better than the kickoff coverage because of the team speed, but it still is not where it should be. Well, this is a whole new year, and the Colts have drafted and signed players who could completely revamp the coverage and return games. The Colts may have been anemic in the return game and incompetent in coverage last year, but next year will be different.

Kickoff Coverage

The Colts had a bunch of stupid mistakes last year covering kickoffs. There were multiple offsides penalties and missed tackles. However, the Colts have made some moves with personnel that will make this team one of the premier coverage squads in the NFL.

This offseason, the Colts kept their current special teams stars and then drafted and signed some players with potential to be stars. Darrell Reid, the man who almost killed Chris Henry, and Matt Giordano resigned with the Colts. With those two, the Colts have a great cornerstone for a strong special teams. However, the other 7 coverage men all were subpar. Here is the lineup I would use.

Michael Coe and Matt Giordano are the gunners. These are two of the fastest players on the team, and they should be able to keep the returner from making it to the outside.

Darrell Reid is the wedge breaker. He is big and normally one of the first defenders down the field. He is a Pro Bowl-caliber special teamer.

The other two players on the outside are Jamie Silva and Roy Hall. I would like to keep Hall away from special teams after his shoulder injury, but he is too fast and too big to be on the sidelines on kickoffs.

The five other defenders that I would send out would be Philip Wheeler, Colin Farrell, Brandon Archer, Curtis Johnson, and Ramon Guzman.

With this setup, this is how the kickoff formation would look like:


With this lineup, the Colts will have two of the fastest players in the league in Coe and Giordano being able to shut down the outside. Darrell Reid could very easily be another Colts Pro Bowler this upcoming year. The big defenders are also giants, and the linebackers are solid tacklers.

Kickoff Returns

Since Brad Pyatt's neck injury, there hasn't been a dynamic Colts returner in ages. In the sixth round, a Division III player became the next Colts returner.

Pierre Garcon is the ideal returner for this team. First, he will not play a big role on Sundays when Peyton is on the field. At most he will be a fourth receiver if Marvin is suspended or still injured. Secondly, he is one of the most explosive returners I have seen highlights of. Most would think Joshua Cribbs got put in a Mount Union jersey and starting returning kicks on Pop Warner teams. That's how good he has looked. I don't think there is a question who will be returning punts this year.

However, we have seen returners come and go. Brad Pyatt hurt his neck. Terrence Wilkins became too old. TJ Rushing is now expendable. To be safe in case of a freak injury, the Colts have backup returners. Sam Giguere is a probable practice squad player who could be a quality returner some day. Rudy Burgess and Charles Dillon both were returners in college, and they could be signed to the 53 man roster if Garcon and Giguere would be injured. Speed is never a concern for the Colts.

Here is a Pierre Garcon kick return highlight for those who don't believe how good this kid can be.

Convinced? I think most Colts fans are, and more importantly, Bill Polian is.

Punt Coverage

The punt coverage and kickoff coverage teams should look similar. Matt Giordano and Michael Coe will be gunners. Coe is not as solid of a tackler as one may want for gunner, but he is as fast as any player on this team. Giordano combines speed and tackling to make an unstoppable gunner. I would like to see the players I listed on my kickoff coverage being on there as well. Philip Wheeler, Curtis Johnson, and Brandon Archer are all solid tacklers who would not let big plays happen.

Punt Return

I think we all know that Garcon will be the returner, but who will be on the line? Last year, Michael Coe made a great block in the Baltimore game. I think he and Giordano should be on the outside to go for the blocks. On the inside, I would like to see big bodies like Quinn Pitcock, Ed Johnson, and Josh Thomas in the middle. Also, an offensive lineman like Jamey Richard wouldn't hurt either for blocking. To drop back and block, linebackers like Tyjuan Hagler and Philip Wheeler would help. With this, they could get some good returns. However, I think we do not have the best blockers for returns, which is why we have had minimal success returning punts.

This is my preseason overview of the special teams. It's mostly guesses, because we don't even know the roster yet. But this is what I think it will look like.

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