Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Kick game more than numbers
Key is production, not time on the field
July 29, 2009
One of the common exaggerations in the NFL is that the kicking game is one-third of the total game. There's offense, defense and special teams, right? And each is weighted equally in the minds of coaches.
However, a review of the statistics would seem to dispel that myth.
Last season, the Browns ran 921 plays on offense and 1,004 on de fense. The total number of plays on special teams - in volving kickoffs and kickoff re turns, punts and punt returns, field goals tried and de fended, and extra points tried and defended - was 369.
That means that in 2008, the Browns spent 44 percent of their time on defense, 40 percent on offense and 16 percent on special teams.
This is not to devalue the importance of special teams. Surely, the Browns have won games - and lost them - primarily because of the play of special teams.
Phil Dawson's two windswept field goals in blizzard conditions against Buffalo in 2007 are an example of how important specialists are. Last year, also against Buffalo, Dawson accounted for 17 points - five field goals and two extra points - in the Browns' 29-27 win. Dawson's career-long 56-yard field goal with 1:39 left in the game provided the winning points. It was his 11th game-winning kick in 10 years with the Browns.
Special teams also account for the "hidden yardage" in games. For instance, when the Browns finished eighth in the NFL in scoring in 2007, their offense was boosted by the best kickoff return unit in the AFC, and second overall in the league. On the average, they took over possession at their 33-yard line after every kickoff - which means they reduced the field to 67 yards.
The new Browns special teams coordinator is Brad Seely, who has coached the kicking game for 20 years in the NFL, the last 10 with the New England Patriots.
Seely brings a solid reputation as one of the best special teams coaches in the league. He inherits a fairly solid nucleus of special teams players here.
“It’s been a team that I’ve played against before and felt like they gave you some real difficulties because of the players,” Seely said. “I think you can always improve that by maybe a change of the scheme, maybe a change of how you are going to get these guys motivated to play a little bit differently or a little harder, or somewhat come across with a different message of how we are going to be successful.”
• Phil Dawson: Made 84.8 percent of field goals last two years, including 16 of 22 from 40 yards or more.
• Parker Douglass: Indoor Football League Kicker was signed in May when Dawson skipped voluntary workeouts.
• Ryan Pontbriand: The AFC Pro Bowl long snapper each of the past two years.
• Dave Zastudil: Has developed into one of the league’s best cold weather punters.