For 14 seasons Adam Vinatieri brought a level of consistency to the Indianapolis Colts kicking game that has been rivaled by few others. The future Hall of Famer and four time Super Bowl champ was as close to a sure thing you can find at the position and never shied away from a clutch kick. However, since his retirement in 2019, the Colts have struggled to find a suitable replacement.
After waiving 2020 and 2021 starter Rodrigo Blankenship following his shaky week 1 performance, the Colts turned to journeyman kicker Chase McLaughlin to fill the void. In now his second stint with the Colts, McLaughlin has played well through six weeks making all six of his extra point tries and converting on nine of his ten field goal attempts. The Colts offense as a whole has struggled to begin the season, but McLaughlin’s consistency has allowed the team to stay in games and rely on their strong defense to win. The Colts will need McLaughlin to maintain this level of play if they plan on having continued success.
Chase McLaughlin: How Did We Get Here?
In 2006, the Colts signed former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri to replace Mike Vanderjagt and help the talented team reach their ultimate goals. Vinatieri played 14 seasons for the Colts and helped them win the Super Bowl in 2006. He excelled at a position that can be so inconsistent and built himself a Hall of Fame career.
Adam Vinatieri's NFL records:
– Career PTS (2,673) & FGM (599)
– Seasons of 100+ PTS (21) or 20+ (22) or 25+ (16) FGM
– Playoff PTS (238) & FGM (56)
– Regular Season + Playoff GP (397)
– Consecutive FGM (44)
– XPM (874) since NFL Merger
– SB Wins (4) by Kpic.twitter.com/wbIkzb4zAb
— Pro Sports Outlook (@PSO_Sports) October 17, 2022
However, Vinatieri struggled in his final season and the Colts have been unable to fill the void at the position since his retirement. The Colts have tried a handful of kickers since Vinatieri’s retirement including Mike Badgley, Rodrigo Blankenship, and even a previous stint from Chase McLaughlin. Blankenship had the potential to be a long term solution as he played all 16 games for the team in 2020, but an injury in 2021 and inconsistent play to begin the 2022 season led to the former Georgia Bulldog being waived and had the Colts once again looking for a kicker.
The Colts signed McLaughlin to their practice squad and elevated him to the active roster prior to their week two matchup with Jacksonville. The fourth year kicker slid into the starting role and the Colts hope that he can be a long term solution to their kicking problems.
Chase McLaughlin: 2022 Season
Kicking is important to any team as even a missed extra point can change the entire complexion of a game. Having consistent kicking brings a peace of mind to such a volatile position and can help elevate teams to an elite status. Kicking has become increasingly important for the 2022 Colts team as their offense continues to struggle.
While they had their best outing of the year on Sunday against the Jaguars, this team has, for the most part, struggled to put up points. With an inconsistent offense, it becomes increasingly important to capitalize on scoring opportunities when they present themselves and with all of the Colts wins coming by one score or less, three points can make all the difference in the world.
Chase McLaughlin’s most impressive outing this season came in the Colts overtime victory over the Denver Broncos in week five. McLaughlin made all four of his field goals including the game tying kick towards the end of regulation and the go ahead kick in overtime.
After drilling all four of his field goals in last week's win in Denver — three of which were 48 or longer — Colts kicker Chase McLaughlin is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) October 12, 2022
McLaughlin’s other two kicks were from beyond 50 yards as the Colts walked out with a 12-9 victory. McLaughlin thrived in areas where Blankenship so often struggled. Blankenship consistently struggled with kicks beyond 50 yards making only one of four from that distance in his career and seems to crumble under the pressure of high leverage kicks.
Another area where McLaughlin has brought more consistency is on kickoffs. Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez has handled the kickoff duties since he was signed in 2017, but was placed on injured reserve in the off season due to an achilles tear he suffered in practice. The Colts turned to Blankenship to cover these duties but he kicked two balls out of bounds in the opening game setting up the Texans in excellent field position.
McLaughlin has since moved into this role and has performed well. It may not seem like much from an outsiders perspective, but those extra yards on a kickoff out of bounds can be the difference in a scoring drive and a punt. And for a Colts team averaging just 17.2 points per game, they simply cannot allow easy scoring drives.
Chase McLaughlin: Long Term Solution?
While it may go unnoticed by the average fan, Chase McLaughlin has brought a level of consistency to the Indianapolis Colts they sorely need. His ability to make kicks from long distance allows the Colts to “steal” points in situations where Blankenship could not convert.
McLaughlin’s efforts on kickoffs have also allowed the Colts to overcome the injury of Rigoberto Sanchez. Field position will be important throughout the year as the Colts need to rely on their defense and special teams to win on a consistent basis. The offense has yet to prove they can score effectively but they can win in other ways.
The @Colts have had a ton of personnel turnover on special teams this year – more than in any other year since Bubba Ventrone was hired in 2018. It’s not just kicker and punter. And the Colts’ special teams units are still really damn good. https://t.co/jVyyoRTE9r pic.twitter.com/EYG8McXY5L
— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) October 18, 2022
McLaughlin has been impressive early this season but he will need to continue this trend to show he can perform over a full season. If he can, the Colts may have found their first long term solution at kicker since Adam Vinatieri. The Colts offense has a long way to go but they are finding their groove. If they can get consistent special teams play, it will bode well for their long term success.
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