The Indianapolis Colts used the final preseason game to allow future backups on the regular season roster, and future practice squad players, to identify themselves through their performances. Each of the new, young players stepped onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium Thursday night with all of the training and development the Colts coaching staff could impart over the course of three long summer months.
It is reasonable to believe that there were players who had previously been unable to showcase their abilities, and who had yet to have their “lights come on,” who had their chances to show the Colts and the rest of the NFL that they deserve a professional football career. Some tough decisions will have to be made, and in honor of the players who are on the wrong side of those decisions, this final roster prediction will provide an explanation behind the final depth chart at each position.
Long Snapper: Justin Snow
Justin Snow continues as the unquestioned long snapper for the Colts punting and field goal kicking units. No other player on the roster offers his experience at the position, his special teams coverage prowess from the position, nor his emergency quarterback skills. If it is not broke, do not fix it. Snow stays with the Colts another year.
Placekicker: Adam Vinatieri
Adam Vinatieri has returned after undergoing hip and knee surgery in 2009. He finished the preseason a perfect 4-for-4 on his field goal opportunities, including one kick beyond 40 yards. Absent some kind of physical setback, his leg looks strong and his accuracy looks good as the team heads into the regular season.
Punter: Pat McAfee
Pat McAfee looks primed to build on an outstanding rookie season. He booted a 60 yard punt against the Bengals, and continues to drill kickoffs into the end zone. One of his other abilities is being one of the strongest coverage kickers in the NFL on punts and kickoffs. It is not outside the realm of possibility that McAfee earns his first Pro Bowl bid in 2010.
Returner: Devin Moore
This decision will be one of the most difficult for the Colts organization. Three players have excelled to varying degrees as potential returners. Ray Fisher is listed with the defense, providing special teams coverage abilities, potential in the defensive secondary, and as the most productive kick returner on the team in the preseason — on average. Devin Moore offers support behind Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, and Mike Hart as a running back, if any of the rushers should miss time this season. Where Moore distinguished himself is as the all-around best returner in both kicks and punts, and adds more offensive value than Brandon James. Where James falls short is in two areas. First, his mishandled punt return, which resulted in a Packers touchdown, at the very least results in a minor concern about his dependability in that role. Second, he is far inferior to the Colts other receiving options, and the receiver position is the most talented and deepest on the team. As a result, it makes more sense for the Colts to retain the player who has proven dependable in the return game and offers depth at the weaker offensive position.
Special Teams Roster Spots: 4/53