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I spend a lot of time discussing the Xs and Os of the secondary, route schemes, formations, etc. But after watching the Bears’ Devin Hester break the NFL record for the number of punt return TDs, its time to talk some special teams.
There is technique in the kicking game when you break down the coverage aspect and how returners attack running lanes. And when you miss a tackle—and give Hester a chance—it is going to lead to six points.
Check out the replay from Hester’s return vs. the Panthers and then we will talk some technique…
My notes after seeing the replay…
The gunners: Toughest position on special teams when you have to beat a double-team at the line of scrimmage. But you still have to play with contain principles. Here, we see the gunner up top dumped on the sidelines and the right gunner pinched inside. And when you lose both players vs. Hester that immediately opens the door for a big play.
The kick: Even if this doesn’t go for a TD, Hester can still pick up positive yardage and set up field position due to the low hang time (and ball placement in the middle of the field). Returners are taught to pick up a first down (10-yards), because that is one less series the offense has to work with to put together a scoring drive.
The set up: Check out the end zone angle on the film. That slight cut from Hester once he receives the ball changes the coverage lanes. And when you have the lateral ability of the Bears’ returner, you can cut back and pick a running lane when the coverage breaks down.
Can't miss tackles in the NFL: We can talk about this at any level of football when it comes to the kicking game, however, when working against an elite returner you can’t miss. Don’t play out of control, break down at the point of attack and get your head across on the tackle. The Panthers had Hester in a tough spot, but when you don’t tackle in the NFL it always leads to an explosive play.
One-cut, vertical speed: You can tell when Hester sees the running lane after breaking a tackle. Plant the foot, cut up field and show that vertical speed. It is almost ridiculous how fast he can move when he finds room to run.
Why even give Hester a chance to beat you? Good question to ask the Panthers right now…
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