Does Indy's make-up create bad coverage teams?

August, 8, 2008
8/08/08
3:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Indianapolis Colts aren't a very good kick or punt coverage team.

Last year they were the worst team in the league covering punts and ranked 29th against kickoffs.

They gave up a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Devin Hester to open Super Bowl XLI the season before that.

They don't accept that, certainly, and expect to improve.

But coach Tony Dungy does concede that the way his team is built, it's unlikely to have long-tenured special team stalwarts to anchor the coverage units.

"We don't want to give up plays, but we are always going to be training new people there because, with the salary cap, we're not going to be able to go after veteran special teams players," he said. "You'd love to have them, but it's a lot with our draft choices and young guys and guys who haven't played on special teams a lot. And they have to learn.

"Hopefully, they'll learn in the preseason and we'll be good to go in the regular season. But we do have much more turnover on special teams than we have on offense and defense usually."

Darrell Reid led the team with 22 special teams tackles last year - including a monster blowup of the Titans' Chris Henry in Week 17 -- but he could be called on for a bigger role on defense after the unexpected retirement of Quinn Pitcock.

Two other special team players who were among the top tacklers are gone. Rocky Boiman went to Philadelphia as a free agent and Luke Lawton was traded to the Eagles.

Another possible contributing factor -- Indy's defense thrives with small, quick linebackers. Linebackers are usually key special teamers. While speed is a big ingredient on coverage, it also needs to be blended with beef. The Colts are often thin on the second element of that formula.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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