INDIANAPOLIS – The minor growing pains continue for Rodrigo Blankenship, but the Indianapolis Colts are confident their rookie kicker will move past them.
Blankenship has opened his NFL career by converting 8-of-10 field goal attempts and all eight of his PATs. His 32 points are tied for 2nd in the league.
But he’s hit the uprights with three of his kicks. A 30-yarder in the opener at Jacksonville glanced off the left goalpost while a 41-yard attempt against the New York Jets clanked off the right post. He had a PAT against the Jets ricochet through after hitting the right upright.
“I think he’s progressing,’’ special teams coach Bubba Ventrone said on a Tuesday Zoom conference call. “There are going to be times where you have hiccups in a game or in practice, whatever it may be, and it’s how fast you can self-correct and then apply it to the next step.’’
On the two goalpost hits against the Jets, Ventrone explained Blankenship “didn’t do a good job of getting through the ball. Obviously, you can see that when you’re watching the film.’’
Besides, he added, every kicker struggles from time to time.
“Look, he’s a rookie and every kicker misses kicks,’’ Ventrone said.
Two weeks ago, Kansas City’s Harrison Butker nailed three field goals, including a pair of 58-yarders. The second 58-yarder came in overtime and gave the Chiefs a 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. In the Chiefs’ 34-20 win at Baltimore Monday night, Butker was wide left with an opening PAT and a 42-yard field goal attempt.
And then there’s Stephen Gostkowski. He missed a PAT and three field goals in Tennessee’s opener at Denver before knocking down the game-winning 25-yarder. He’s converted nine in a row, including two more game-winners against Jacksonville and Minnesota. Against the Vikings, Gostkowski was a career-best 6-for-6.
Missed kicks, Ventrone said, are “the nature of the beast, the nature of the game. It’s how fast can you apply the corrections and self-diagnose within the game, within the situation.’’
Gotta earn the rotational reps
Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus routinely relies eight linemen on game day. The idea: keep ‘em fresh.
How does he arrive at his rotational system? Eberflus runs a meritocracy.
“We really base it mostly off of our loaf system and the hustle system,’’ he said. “If a guy comes in and he plays 25 plays but a third of his plays are loafs, we will decrease his reps until he can play at the level we need him to play at in terms of his hustle and his hitting and his execution.’’
The idea is for players to always show up on Eberflus’ “all-hustle team.’’ They earn a spot on the list by achieving a 90% “hustle’’ grade.
“Then he can play as many plays as he’s able to execute,’’ Eberflus said. “There are guys in there that are doing that.’’
He singled out Grover Stewart, Al-Quadin Muhammad and DeForest Buckner.
“There are a lot of guys in there,’’ Eberflus said. “Buck does a great job of hustling every single play and those guys are on the all-hustle team every single week.
“That’s what we’re searching for. The rotation will be based on those guys that can play hard every single snap with good technique.’’
Through three games, the defense has been on the field for 172 snaps. The top d-linemen in terms of total snaps: Buckner (134), Denico Autry(123), Justin Houston (103), Muhammad (94) and Stewart (90).
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.