AFC South: 2011 potential rule changes

The Indianapolis Colts could do cartwheels if the competition committee’s suggestions on revised kickoffs are actually implemented by the league.

Move the kickoff up five yards to the 35? Great. Bring a touchback out to the 25? Fantastic.

Kickoff man Pat McAfee could put a good share of kickoffs in the end zone, and the kick cover unit would happily take a 25-yard start for the opposition instead of risking a big play against it.

If the other kicker can get it to the goal line, the Colts can find guys to take knees and not get tackled inside the 20, providing better field position for Peyton Manning.

After a kickoff, the Colts starting field position of the 22.7-yard line was the NFL’s worst last season. Defending kickoffs they put the opposition at the 26.5, 15th in the league.

But we all remember how the Jets crushed them with a 47-yard kickoff return by Antonio Cromartiethat helped set up a winning field goal at the end of a first-round playoff game in January. (A failed kick return play doomed them in the Super Bowl the season before, though these changes won’t help them do better recovering a surprise onsides kick.)

Philosophically, the Colts just don’t put a lot into special teams. They don’t carry a lot of veteran backups, the core of most franchise’s special teams, because their roster is constructed to be top-heavy with star salaries and kid-reliant at the bottom of the 53. Those kids play a lot of special teams, so there isn't a lot of experience and there is a lot of turnover.

Last year, with a ton of injuries, the Colts’ special teams’ roster wound up filled by a lot of guys who won’t be in the league on opening day this fall, presuming we have one.

Anything that minimizes the influence on special teams will be good for Indianapolis. It will also help the Colts against Tennessee, which has a Pro Bowl return man in Marc Mariani, and Jacksonville, which has two guys who've been to the Pro Bowl as special teamers in Kassim Osgood and Montell Owens. (Corrected from how I identified them earlier. Apologies.)

The three teams in pursuit of the Colts could see an avenue where they saw advantages narrow to an alley.

The purpose of the alterations would be to minimize some of the most dangerous collisions in the sports. The side-effects are something Indianapolis has to welcome.

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