Ballard continued to reinforce the Colts in the draft and took care of every positional need. After the UDFA signings concluded, you could say every question mark about the roster was answered (except for one).
Which position is still in question on the roster, you may ask?
The answer is Rodrigo Blankenship, the current fan favorite LEGO builder, and placekicker for your Indianapolis Colts. As Blankenship enters his 3rd season as the starting kicker, the noise surrounding has gotten louder. Blankenship has come up short in various moments in his first two seasons as a kicker, with question marks about his leg strength, health, and overall consistency.
Blankenship missed a crucial field goal versus the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs in his rookie year, and had a roller-coaster second season because of inconsistencies and a season-ending hip injury (which he played through vs. BAL). On the surface, it does not necessarily look like Blankenship has been a problem to the success of the team. In my opinion, while Blankenship’s output has not been nearly as bad as Adam Vinatieri’s last season, the output was below league average in 2021.
Blankenship’s field goal conversion rate of 78.6 percent in 2021, ranked 29th of 34 qualified kickers according to Pro Football Reference. His extra point conversion percentage (87.5 %) does not qualify because of the lack of attempts due to his season-ending injury. If Blankenship would have held the same conversion rate through the season, he would have tied for last place with Greg Zuerlein (out of 25 qualified kickers, if Blankenship is included).
With Blankenship only playing five games in 2021, it is best to grade his performance with a grain of salt. However, in those five games, Blankenship missed four kicks (three vs BAL in week 5). Comparing to 2020, a whole season, he missed just seven total. The hip injury played a huge role in his shell-shocking week 5 performance vs the Baltimore Ravens. He was placed on injured reserve a few days after, and he ultimately missed the rest of the entire season.
As soon as Blankenship was placed on injured reserve, the Colts signed his interim replacement for the rest of the 2021 season. They tabbed former Los Angeles Chargers placekicker, Michael Badgley, as the man for the job. Indianapolis had a previous interest in Badgley, as they brought him on as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2018.
Through the rest of the season, Badgley converted 81.8 percent of his field-goal attempts and 97.6 percent of his extra-point attempts. He made 18 out of 22 field goals and 40 out of 41 extra-point attempts. While Badgley has an exceptionally better extra point conversion rate compared to Blankenship; his field goal conversion rate is only slightly better than Blankenship’s percentage.
Furthering the comparison, neither Badgley nor Blankenship successfully made a field goal from 48 or more yards in 2021. Badgley’s season-high was 46 yards and Blankenship’s was 48. Both kickers rank out of the top 32 qualified kickers in terms of the longest field goal made by each kicker in 2021. Blankenship ranked 35th and Badgley 37th out of 44 qualified kickers in 2021. Both kickers contributed to having Indianapolis rank 22nd out of the 32 NFL teams in team field goal conversion rate.
With a team field goal conversion rate of 82.86, the Colts ranked below the league average conversion rate of 85.1 percent in 2021. The Colts had a subpar kicking game in 2021, which made their season more difficult and partly contributed to the team missing the playoffs.
Badgley is currently a free agent and it is very unlikely that the Colts re-sign him to a contract for this upcoming season. Blankenship is back to being the starting Colts’ kicker moving forward, and he has no intention of giving it up. He has been furiously working out and trying to put on more muscle, and increase his leg strength. Blankenship has also recorded himself kicking field goals in the off-season, and show proof of his improved abilities.
This upcoming season will be very important for Blankenship’s future with the Colts. Indianapolis has the firepower to contend for the Super Bowl this season, but the Colts can only go as far as the team can take them. While Blankenship is only one player, his impact on the outcome of each game is immense because of the importance of his position. A game can be decided by one point and Blankenship can contribute either one point or three points. Every point in every game matters, and as Colts fans, we should realize how lucky we have had it in the past.
This is not the glory times of Adam Vinatieri’s prime anymore, where almost every field goal was automatic. For the Colts and Blankenship to be successful and be a playoff-contending team, he must perform up to the standards of a kicker capable of winning the big games in the playoffs, like Vinatieri before him.
I am quite excited to see Hot Rod’s resurgence campaign this upcoming season, and I am hopeful that he proves the doubters wrong and helps lead the Colts to the promised land. In saying that, I also think this year could be “a prove it or lost it kind of year” for Blankenship because of his past inconsistencies in his first two seasons. His development is vital for the Colts’ makeup and their probability of winning the 2022 Super Bowl.
I conducted a poll on Twitter, asking Colts fans “Is Rodrigo Blankenship on the hot seat this season?”. 71 percent of the voters answered “yes”. It is quite intriguing to know that the majority of Colts fans feel the pressure mounting on Blankenship coming into the Colts’ potential Super-Bowl window. Time will tell how well Blankenship performs, but in my opinion, I believe everyone should “trust the specs” as Rodrigo Blankenship transforms into Hot Rod for the 2022 season.
I will leave you with these two questions; Do you think Rodrigo Blankenship is in a prove it or lose it type of year with the Colts in 2022? Do you think his performance in 2022 will be the main factor in whether the Colts make the playoffs?
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