FanPost

Special Team Play

Every player on the team must earn his roster spot. We often talk about the position players on defense and offense, but there is a third unit – the Special Team.

There are a few specialists – kicker, punter, deep snapper and occasionally a team will have a dedicated return specialist, though often that is a backup WR, CB or RB. It is also true that sometimes a team will have a dedicated FG kicker and another for kickoffs.

Yet for each punt, kickoff or FG attempt there will be 11 players on the field for both offense and defense in addition to the specialists. This will be a look at those other players.

There are a few ways to upgrade a ST, just like the OL.

http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2013/2/13/3985294/factors-to-measure-in-the-upgrade-of-the-ol

These include the inter-related areas of coaching, continuity, individual talent, depth. These are so intertwined that I will not break them down into separate areas.

We have a new ST coach in Rich Bisaccia this year after letting Joe DeCamillis go.

http://www.dallascowboys.com/news/article-NickEatman/Cowboys-To-Hire-Bisaccia-As-New-Special-Teams-Coach-/e6130529-2d53-4389-9b97-b892483ca990

Coaching ST is among the most difficult due to the other areas. This is especially true as many of the new rules have been put in place specifically about ST play and practice time.

First non-specialist ST players are often the last ones to make the team. Teams will try to maximize the position players. The backups have to be good ST guys and ST guys have to be good backups.

We will rotate all kinds of combinations of new position players with existing players to evaluate them with quality players. Playing all rookies against rookies and marginal players against other marginal players in pre-season makes it hard to evaluate their talent against the NFL norms.

So you put them in a few at a time surrounded by other quality players against good competition. This takes a long time. There is always a trade-off of evaluation snaps of new guys versus getting enough snaps for veterans to get ready for the season.

Yet the ST makeup does not end when the team roster is settled. Each game day roster is determined first by who is not able to play and who the team will activate for depth for each position. The ST coach gets the remainders. This makes it hard to have continuity under the best of circumstances. Add in the roster turnover or churn and it becomes daunting.

Teams basically have three choices to upgrade ST play

First – have more specialists. We have McCray who was the ST captain last year and is a fine ST player in his own right, but we really do not want him to play safety. We signed Bosworth as a ST player who we have also dragooned into playing defense due to the number of injuries.

Second – you can have better talent on ST as backups., which sounds good on paper. Often this is accomplished by having rookies, who were drafted and UDFA’s who are trying to make the team, get their first taste of the NFL on ST play. As they get more established then the number of plays at their primary position goes up.

Third – one can have starters on the ST. This also requires a trade-off as you don’t want to overload any player and ST is a way to get others on the field and balance out the load.

PFF notes the following

Here’s why the Seattle special teams are so good. Alongside great ST specialists like Heath Farwell and Jeremy Lane the Seahawks mix in more starters than anyone else. Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Richard Sherman have all been integrated into various units and now, despite playing on a season high 69% of offensive snaps because of Sidney Rice’s injury, Kearse is still a key contributor.

https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/11/14/neil-hornsby-highlights-the-best-contributions-from-the-men-that-man-the-third-phase-of-football-the-special-reamers/.

This year, PFF is also measuring ST play. It looks like they only track the defensive side, but that is a start. The following article is what they look at by ST position. It is worth reading if only to discuss players besides the gunner.

https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/10/31/the-third-phase-week-8/

As ST players are the last to make the team and as backups for positions , they are most likely to be churned. Just how much churning is done is shown by the following.

Through 10 games this year, PFF have scores for 995 players on ST. To get that number down to a more manageable level and to get a larger sample size per player, I limited the results by the number of games played. Just playing in 5 or more games drops that in half to 438 players. In 7 or more games that would be still 264 or about a quarter.

Originally I planned to use 7 games but use 5 games as the limitation to discuss more players from Dallas. Dallas has several players who have logged lots of ST play with 5 or more games:

name……Rank…..Pct…Games…Overall..KO....Punt.....FG/EP…Penalty…..# Pen….TKS..Asst…Missed

Scandrick…..017…..97…..6……….3.5…..0.0…….2.0……1.5…….0.0…………0……0…..0…..0

Bosworth…..021…...95….8……….3.0…..0.0…….4.0……0.0……-1.0…………1…….5…..2…..0

Holloman…..045…..90…..5……….1.5…..1.5…….0.0……0.0…….0.0…………0…….0…..0…..0

Heath………045…..90…..9……….1.5….-0.5…….2.0…....0.0…….0.0………...0…….4…..2…..0

Carr………..063…..86…...6………1.0…..0.0…….1.0…....0.0…….0.0…………2…….0…...0….0

McCray……090…..79…..8……….0.5…..0.0…….0.5…...0.0……..0.0…………0…….3…..0…..1

Wilcox……..127…..71…..6……….0.0….-1.0……1.0……0.0……..0.0…………0…….3…..0…..1

Wilber……..217…..50…..7……....-0.5…..0.5…..-1.0…....0.0……..0.0…………0…….1…..0…..0

Webb……...247…..44…..5……...-1.0…..0.5…...-1.5……0.0……..0.0………...0…….1…..1…...0

Hanna…….323…...26…..6……...-2.0….-1.5…..-0.5…....0.0……..0.0…………0…….0…..0…..1

Harris……..323…..26….10……...-2.0…..1.0…...-2.5…..0.0…….-0.5………….2…….8….0…..3

Tanner……402…..08…...9……...-4.0….-1.5…..-1.5…...0.0…….-1.0………….1……1…..1…..2

Dunbar…...416…..05……7……...-5.0….-0.5…..-4.5…...0.0……..0.0………….0…....0…..0…..0

As one can tell we have many great ST players and some that need work. It does not bode well that our backup RBs not only are not doing well at their position, but are rated as terrible ST players too.

However, it is fair to point out that these seem only to be the defensive side of the ST play. PFF ranks players on KR/Punt returns and Dunbar ranks 42 of171 or 76 percentile.

KR/Punt return [171 players ranked]

Name….games…..score…..rank…..percentile

Harris……….10…….6.0…...03……94

Dunbar………1……..0.4…...42…...76

A Smith……...1…….-0.1…...76……56

Bosworth…....2…….-0.2....117…...32

Beasley……..2…….-0.3….123…...28

PFF measures the entire ST unit. Currently Dallas is seventh.

Denver

Seattle

Carolina

New England

New Orleans

Indianapolis

Dallas

Football Outsiders also measures the ST as a unit with some adjustments. We ranked highly even before the adjustments.

Overall…..hidden points…..weather…..

01……………07……………………03

Read the following for their discussion

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamst

Conclusion

ST play is one of the bright spots for Dallas this year. This show that if the team can minimize the injury issue and solidify the depth at the positions we will make a large leap. As it is, the team has decided to upgrade the ST even at the cost of precious roster spots.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Blogging The Boys

You must be a member of Blogging The Boys to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blogging The Boys. You should read them.

Join Blogging The Boys

You must be a member of Blogging The Boys to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Blogging The Boys. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker