Could the run of fan favorite kicker Rodrigo Blankenship be over in Indianapolis before it truly begins?
Blankenship, who took the league by storm with his right leg — and thick specks, finds himself in a true position battle in training camp in Westfield after the Indianapolis Colts brought in veteran kicker Eddy Pineiro to try and push the young, undrafted kicker.
On the surface, that would appear a bit ridiculous, considering Blankenship was named to the Pro Football Writer's Association's All-Rookie Team and converted 32-of-37 field goals as a rookie last season.
Those five kicks though, along with an overall lack of leg strength, led the Colts to continue searching for upgrades regardless of position, bringing in Pineiro in mid-May. Though there doesn't appear to be much of a competition based on track record, Colts' special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone — speaking to reporters Thursday in Westfield — said that the team is looking for more consistency from the kicking game, making it an open competition.
“I think one of the traits you look for in any type of player – not just a specialist – is consistency. You want to get the same guy every day. We felt like last year Rod’s (Rodrigo Blankenship) consistency, his ball flight, not a lot of variation on his kicks – you look for the same thing from a position player," Ventrone said. "You want the same guy every day. It’s hard to deal with a guy that is here one day, here the next day. You need a guy that’s here and that’s ascending and that’s what we saw in Rod last year. Now look, Eddy (Pineiro) is a talented player, he’s explosive. He’s had some injuries that he’s been dealing with, but he’s healthy now and it will be a good competition. We have two really good kickers in camp.”
The five misses on paper are not that big of a deal, considering he finished 15th in the NFL in field goal percentage as a rookie. Of the five misses, one came from 30-39 yards, which is inexcusable, while two came from 40-49 yards and the other two came from 50+, which is understandable from a kicker with leg strength questions.
Blankenship knows he needs to take the next step in 2021, especially with Pineiro pushing him in camp threatening his job. Coming off a strong season as a rookie, one would understand if Blankenship was a bit frustrated, but Ventrone said that wasn't the case.
“No, I think that ultimately competition brings out the best in you. Whenever he knew that we signed Eddy (Pineiro), he didn’t blink," Ventrone said. "He’s the same player, same person every day. That guy is super consistent, works hard, work ethic – the one thing that he did a good job of this offseason was he trained harder in the weight room. He came in bigger (and) he did a lot more with his body. He’s more explosive and you guys will see that when you get to see him actually kick in a team setting. So, I think it can be a really good year for him.”
Have thoughts on Rodrigo Blankenship battling against Eddy Pineiro in training camp as he eyes his second year as the Colts' kicker? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!