Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Special Teams Coaching Grade

Jimmy Johnson once said that in order to win football games 2 out of the 3 components to a team must play great: offense, defense, or special teams.  We all saw that this year when the defense finally came to fruition midway through the season. For the last year and a half only the special teams has been playing well.  When both were playing at a high level this team won 7 of 9.   Even as bad as the offense was the solid D and ST overcame it.  Kevin Spencer isn’t getting nearly the credit he deserves for what they’ve done this year.  Heck, or for last year either for that matter.

On kickoffs Hyphen is always a danger to break one.  What hurt this year was his injuries and the new kickoff rules.  Jefferson filled in O.K. for him when he was out.  They ended up 15th on yards per attempt. 

I now know what its like to be a Bears fan: that is, I lose my breath every time the opponent punts the ball because I’m expecting something amazing.  I first noticed it when James and I went to the Rams game.  Every time they punted the ball the crowd got on edge.  PUNTING.  I can only remember three other guys that made me feel like that: Deion, Dante Hall, and Devin Hester.   Patrick Peterson played like a HOF punt returner this year.  Spencer and Whiz got those players to give him a ton of room to have a chance at a return (not that he needed much).  I love how they gave him the Dante Hall rules, which basically states there are no rules.  Do whatever you want.  That’s a lot of control to give up to a rookie, but if they hadn’t he would have never fielded that one against the Rams in OT.  They finished 2nd overall on average yards per punt return. (Behind the Bears)

On kickoff return coverage they were 23rd with 25 yards per attempt.  Not good, however they gave up no TDs and balanced that with a stellar defense. 

On punt return coverage they were 25th  with 12.2 yards per attempt and 1 TD.  Again not good.  Both coverage teams must be addressed in the off season.

Feely was good on FGs this year.  He was 22nd of FG PCT, but he seemed to make em when it mattered.  Plus Feely is a real football player.  He gets in the game and it appears the players respect him.  That goes a long way.  Whiz was wise to get him and will be wise to keep him.

Its not his fault, but Zastudil had to punt far too often this year.  That can throw punter’s numbers all off.  However, he was 2nd in returns allowed and 9th on yards per return.  Those are very bad numbers.  Certainly they reflect a poor offense and bad field position.  His punting AVG was 16th which makes him exactly average.  With this bad a coverage team, there should have been more punting for hang time or punts away from returners.  It didn’t kill em this year, but it could in the future if left unaddressed.

I’ve never cared to even mention defense of FGs as a point of interest.  But how can you avoid it after this year.  They actually won about 3 games just because of this statistic.  Campbell blocked 3 and Peterson 2.  Those are gaudy numbers in this department.  I think they actually struck fear into kickers in the NFL.  That’s unheard of.  The coaches have these players believing that they can block anything.  I love what Spencer and Whiz have created here.

Overall grade for Special Team coaching:  B

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