Friday, May 30, 2008
Derek Doerfler was 23 of 32 on field goals his junior year at Baker University with eleven kicks outside 50 yards. Of those eleven field goal attempts outside 50 yards, he made seven with a long of 62 yards.
On Friday, which was Derek's third One on One Lesson, I gave Derek a pro style workout. This was the type of workout I would give a kicker, when I was a Special Teams Coach in the NFL for 13 years. It is very similar to the workout the NFL Combine administers to all the prospective kickers.
The one difference from my workout and the NFL Combine workout is, I don't and won't do an elevation drill. Matter of fact, I do not favor that drill. I would never make any of my kickers execute that drill. The reason being, kickers change their technique, just to get the ball over the cross bar to be successful for the drill. The drill gives a kicker bad muscle memory.
We started the 3rd lesson still working the one step drill to emphasize some of the fundamentals Derek still needed to work on. Once he was loose and hitting his kicks solid we started the field goal workout. (Derek's workout will be available on the One on One Lessons in a couple of days.)
The first part of the workout consisted of 10 field goals from both hashes and from various distances. We started with 30 yard field goals and progressed back to 50 yards in 5 yard increments. Derek made 9 straight kicks. However, he missed his last kick from 50 yards on the right hash. (Note: In yesterdays blog I mentioned that the right hash has caused Derek some problems during the first two lessons.) I must say he killed all the other kicks from the right hash directly down the middle.
The second part of the workout consisted of long range field goals. The distances on these field goals was 55 and 57 yards. The objective is to evaluate each kickers leg strength and to see if he still kicks with the same form.
Derek hit one of two field goals or 50% from both 55 and 57 yards.
Just a quick note to my readers. When I administered a workout to any kicker or punter that has NFL potential, I use almost brand new (K) balls. Derek was kicking these (K) balls with authority. It was a very impressive exhibition.
We finished the workout with kickoffs. Derek warmed up with a couple of two step kickoffs and progressed to full kickoffs. Derek's leg was a little tired after three days of kicking, so I limited him to only six kickoffs. I won't list all the stats, but the kid can also kickoff. Derek had two touch backs with his best kickoff going 7 yards deep in the end zone.
After working with Derek for the last three days, it is my opinion and evaluation that next year will be great for this young man from Baker University and the NFL will be knocking on his door next spring.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Doug Doerfler, Derek's father heard about me through the agent for Derrick Frost who is the punter for the Washington Redskins. Doug brought Derek to Scottsdale for one reason, he believes his son has the potential to be an NFL kicker.
Derek started kicking and from the very first kick I said to myself, "Boy, this kid has a leg." The next questions I needed answered was technique, consistency and the ability to kick under pressure.
Derek through the first two days executed the one step drill and kicked his field goals with good field goal technique. I really liked the way he kicked up and through the ball, skipped down field and ended up on balance. (Above photo)
It was pretty easy for Derek to make these adjustment because he has not had as much bad muscle memory as most kickers because he has only been kicking footballs for 3 years.
Derek was a Missouri High School All-State soccer player in 2004 and went to Baker on a soccer scholarship. He did not play any football in high school. After a career ending soccer injury he decided to try out for the football team. The coaches liked Derek and gave him a scholarship to be their field goal kicker. That was a smart move by the coaching staff.
The second day we charted all of Derek's field goals. We did two sets of field goals from short and intermediate ranges. Once again I was checking for tendencies. Derek still had a tendency to miss to the right when and if he would miss.
However, he did not miss much. When Derek hit the ball correctly, the kick was high, long and straight.
I was thinking to myself, if I could coach or train this kid for a year he would be an NFL draft pick.
At the end of the second session I made one more minor adjustment and Derek nailed the last three or four kicks right down the middle.
Derek and his father Doug seemed very happy with the results of the first two lessons. Friday we will chart again and spend more time on kickoffs.
Today's One on One golf skins game almost cost me, my perfect record. So far to date, none of the kicking specialists have taken any money from me during our skins game matches. However, this match with Derek went right down to the 18th hole. I had to give Derek 3 shots during the skins game Match. Derek, used a 4 iron all day long to drive off the tee box, and he hit drives of 230 to 240 yards. He hit his 8 iron 180 yards.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
First of all you never know how people find out about your kicking services. In this case, Pete and Laura Atwell saw an article in the Arizona Republic newspaper back in January, Super Bowl weekend highlighting my consulting services.
For the last two months we have e-mailed and talked on the phone about One on One Lessons for their son who is going to walk-on at Arizona State this fall. Cole graduated from High School last Thursday and now he wants to get ready for football this fall at Arizona State.
We started the lesson.
Cole started kicking without much of a warm-up because in high school he played a position and was use to just coming out on the field and kicking. This can happen a lot to combination good athletes in high school. However, in college not many players play a position and kick or punt.
So, Cole with no warm up, just started kicking. After watching him kick two or three sets of balls and evaluating his technique, I asked a bunch of questions.
Cole told me that when he was trying to kick off the ground the last couple of weeks, he was not getting the ball up with a lot of elevation and was a little erratic with his kicking. Most high school kickers when they make the change from kicking off a one or two inch block to the ground they all go through a transition period. Some kickers make the transition faster than others.
Cole has only attended one kicking camp in his career and has not received a lot of instruction. He was very receptive to my coaching points and quickly made progress.
Kickers in general have problems making the transition from the block to the ground because the plant foot is off. Most of the time, it's too far back and the kickers hit a bunch of weird flying balls. They line drive, hook, or push the ball all over the place until they get their plant foot right.
Once we figured out Cole's 'Perfect Triangle' for his steps which resulted in a more consistent 'Perfect Plant' he started kicking the ball with more elevation and better direction.
We finished the lesson by kicking field goals from the right and left hash marks. What Cole had learned earlier applied even more to kicking field goals from the hash. When he got his steps and plant right he hit the ball down the middle and when he didn't he was inconsistent.
The video review later made the concepts and the teaching points crystal clear for Cole. He thanked me for the lesson and the good teaching job and was on his way.
Cole is a smart student of the kicking game and knows what he needs to work on. He will need a ton of repetition and new muscle memory. Like most high school kickers and Cole agreed, because he wasn't getting any elevation on his kicks, like he did in high school he changed his technique and started to scoop the ball more. Therefore, his kicking technique was causing him to be very inconsistent and frustrated.
We will kick again on Saturday and I know he will get better.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Back in 1980 these five gentlemen were all assistant coaches at San Diego State under Head Coach Doug Scovil. From Right to left: Brian Billick, Mike Smith (Head Coach Atlanta Falcons), Cole Proctor (Scout for Tenn. Titans), Steve Shafer (long time Defensive Backs Coach for Rams, Ravens & Jaguars) and myself.
All five coaches went on into the NFL and were very successful.
We were all together at San Diego State when Coach Billick's daughter was born about 25 years ago. Boy, how time flies.
Because this event was a very private wedding, I will not show any photo's of the bride. However, I have a very special place in my heart for the bride because, when she was born I was outside the delivery room waiting to see the precious new package. Brian and Kim did an outstanding job as parents and she has grown up to be a beautiful person and young lady.
Also, in attendance was Art Modell (Former Owner Baltimore Ravens & Cleveland Browns), plus Mike Nolan (Head Coach S.F. 49ers) and other NFL management people. Like always, Mr. Modell had to tell me a joke! He has an unbelievable memory and sense of humor.
As far as the coaches are concerned, we all have gained weight in our years of coaching! Coach Zauner, pictured below with Dolly Parton has changed a lot in the last 25 years. This is how I looked at age 32 when I coached at San Diego State with the guys.
Stay tuned for more of Coach Zauner's Blog!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday's workout with Shane was a tale of two cities. He started very erratically because we were emphasizing get offs. Shane has been punting extremely well, however, some of his get offs have been a little slow.
We noticed on video he had some unnecessary foot movements that were causing him to take up extra time on his get offs and we needed to time up the snaps better or eliminate this movement. This was the focus for me on today's lesson.
The other day we charted punts Shane had too many punts with a handling times of 1.40+ seconds. Handling times are from when the ball touches your hands to the ball hitting your foot. I like my punters to work around a 1.25 to 1.35 second handling time or a total get off of 2.0 seconds which would be from snap to punt.
In the beginning of the lesson we emphasized get offs and the results were a lot of erratic punts, at least for a while. As Shane became more comfortable with the drill we were doing he started to hit his punts more consistently.
At the end of the workout he hit his last set of six punts perfect! He hit all his balls to the power zone with a (SNO) spiral nose over punt and with some great hang times. Two of the punts were 50 plus yards with hang times over 5.0 seconds.
Shane is working hard to get better and sometimes gets frustrated with himself. He's never been coached and to get into the NFL he needs to work on all facets of the game.
Shane wants it so bad and is working endlessly, however, his time here in the United States is limited.
During my consulting and coaching career, I've coached 17 Pro Bowl kickers and punters. I'm hoping Shane just trusts me. I'll refine his skills and hopefully Shane get his opportunity with an NFL team.
Wednesday morning, major winds were in the forecast for Arizona.
So, Mitch and I met early in the morning trying to beat the 40 mph winds. We started with the One Step Drill and variations of the drill. Mitch has been a little inconsistent the last two times we worked together. The emphasises of this lesson was getting the ball on the table quicker and eliminating unnecessary arm movements which was resulting at times with a nose up drop.
We worked the first 20 minutes on drills.
Mitch hit almost every punt into the wind with a (SNO) spiral nose over punt. Mitch was catching the ball out away from his body and locking the ball on the table perfectly. This was one of Mitch's best days and it was on a very windy day.
I love giving lessons on windy days, because the only way a punter can have success is by executing his technique perfectly. If you don't have a perfect drop and contact with the ball and hit a (SNO) spiral nose over punt, you have no chance to be successful.
I tell punters it just like golf. The best PGA golfers strike the ball so purely and with perfect form and technique. So, on a windy day, the wind hardly ever effects their shots except for distance.
The emphasises for kickers and punters is the same, perfect technique. The wind will magnify whatever your doing right or whatever your doing wrong.
Today, Mitch was punting with perfect technique.
We moved to some directional punts, taking advantage of the wind. Once again Mitch was on the money. He hit a bunch of 50 to 55 yard punts with 4.6 to 4.8+ hang times.
It was one of the best days I've ever seen Mitch punt. That's because he was punting with perfect technique. If he was a golfer he would shoot even par on this windy day.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Last night when Tyler went home he worked a drill for marking off his field goals steps, so he would be more consistent on his approach and plant.
Before Tyler came to Scottsdale he mentioned he had been struggling for the last 3 months. He mentioned he had a tendency to push his kicks to the right. He was excited that he was now kicking the ball straighter.
Tyler felt good about his first lesson as he was excited about day two.
We started the lesson with Tyler's usual warm up and moved to my one step drill. The emphasis on the drill was for Tyler to get his aim foot at his target and to stop crunching down when he made impact on the kick.
As I told Tyler when we began, the changes he was making to get better were not easy, simply because for so many years he as acquired some poor muscle memory.
The one step drill is the best drill I know to emphasize good mechanics, and to mold the proper muscle memory. We worked this drill hard for both lessons. When Tyler hit the ball with proper form the ball flew off his foot with excellent distance and accuracy. However, when he kicked using his old swing (wiping the ball) he either pushed the ball right or hooked it left.
Tyler hit some excellent one step kicks. We went back to 51 yards and he hit 50% of his kicks. The three one step kicks he made from 51 yards he drilled down the middle of the goal posts.
We finished the lesson kicking field goals from the left and right hashes. Tyler, was still kicking with two types of kicking motions. When he kicked the ball correctly, he drilled the ball straight and far.
My old saying is "Rome wasn't built in a day" and neither is a kickers new swing. As I told Tyler before we started, "whatever you learn this weekend, you must take home, practice and in two to three weeks you will see more consistent results."
After watching Tyler kick the last two day's, I know he's got talent. Hard work and patience will get him a more consistent technique. He has a year to red-shirt and work on his technique. If he stays committed and works through his frustration, he has the ability to be an excellent kicker.
Stay tuned for more of Coach Zauner's Blog!
Saturday, May 17, 2008
In 2007, Tyler was the kickoff man at University of Colorado as a freshman. After the season he transferred back to Oregon and is now attending Oregon State University.
Tyler is a good looking athlete at 6'1, 190 pounds. Besides being an All-State Kicker in High School, he was also a four year letter winner in track.
Our One on One Lesson started with Tyler going through his kicking routine, I video taped and observed his technique.
Tyler kicked several balls and almost every kick was a little different from the previous kick. I noticed that Tyler's starting position was different on every kick. So, the first fundamental we needed to address was finding Tyler's 'Perfect Triangle'. In other words his distance back, over and his approach to the ball. Below is a photo of Tyler's new starting position into the ball.
Tyler's perfect triangle is 104" x 78" x 132". Every kickers approach is just a little different from the next kicker. However, the key to every kickers success is obtaining a consistent starting position so you can get a consistent perfect plant, which will result in consistent contact on the ball.
When Tyler started the lesson, he kicked and pushed a bunch of kicks to the right. He had the same tendency during Spring football practice at Oregon State. He was very frustrated with his kicking, and that's why he is here in Arizona with me.
With every small adjustment, Tyler starting kicking the ball more consistently down the middle or slightly left.
Tyler was an excellent listener and was very good accepting coaching.
When Tyler first started kicking, he was cutting or wiping the ball which caused him to push or pull his kicks. So, the last fundamental we worked on was getting him to kick up and through his kicks. By the end of the first lesson, Tyler was kicking the ball directly down the middle on a consistent basis. Below, you can see Tyler finishing his kicks towards his target.We finish our first lesson and headed back to my office to review the video. During the video review Tyler could see with clarity what his major problems were. He could also see what his perfect kicks looked like.
Tyler learned a lot about kicking today. I believe he was very happy with his improvement and is looking forward to tomorrow's lesson.
Stay tuned for more of Coach Zauner's Blog!
Friday, May 16, 2008
The theme of each letter is just a little different. First, I sent letters to rookie and free agent kickers and punters, followed by letters to veteran kickers and punters. Next, I sent letters to all the NFL Head Coaches and Special Teams Coaches.
The Bottom Line: I believe Coach Zauner, LLC can help College and NFL teams in various ways.
After working this Spring with Mike Vanderjagt, Mitch Berger, Scott Player, and most recently Rian Lindell, I truely believe, more NFL veteran kickers and punters should have a kicking or swing coach.
Bobby April, Special Teams Coach with the Buffalo Bills sent Rian Lindell to me to improve his distance on kickoffs, his distance and accuracy on directional kickoffs. Bobby sent this testimonial of endorsement for my consulting services:
"Knowing Coach Zauner's expertise and experience in developing and improving kickers, I recommended to our kicker, Rian Lindell, that he take advantage of Coach Zauner's consulting services. Rian invested in a visit with Coach Zauner. Although he is an 8 year NFL veteran and an excellent student of the game he came back very impressed and informed about ways to improve his method of kicking."
Bobby April, Buffalo Bills - Assistant Head Coach & Special Teams Coordinator
One way Coach Zauner, LLC can help specialist and teams, first, is to evaluate specialists, second, is to train specialists and third, find undiscovered talent or sleepers.
I post players on my website so NFL teams can view these specialists going through an NFL type workout.
This is just a sample of the content of one of the letters sent out this week to NFL teams.
Several NFL Head Coaches, GM’s and Special Teams Coaches contacted me prior to the draft and viewed the One on One lessons on my website. These lessons included some of the top college kickers, punters and snappers in this year’s draft. Of the 10 players sent to me, six (60%) were either drafted or signed as priority Free Agents.
Some of the 2008 draft eligible specialists I gave One on One Lessons to included:
· Taylor Mehlhaff (PK) – U of Wisconsin – Drafted 6th Rd. Saints
· Tyler Schmitt (LS) – San Diego St. – Drafted 6th Rd. Seahawks
· Brett Kern (P) – U of Toledo – Free Agent Broncos
· Garrett Hartley (PK) – U of Oklahoma – Free Agent Broncos
· Kenny DeBauche (P) – U of Wisconsin – Free Agent Packers
· Nick Jarvis (LS) – Wake Forest – Free Agent Jets
Not only did I work with college specialists, I also coached veteran NFL kickers and punters. This spring Mike Vanderjagt, Scott Player, Mitch Berger, Rian Lindell and other specialists participated in my One on One lessons here in Arizona. The results were excellent! In the 2007 season Mitch Berger signed with the Cardinals and in 2008 Scott Player signed with the Patriots. Their workouts are on my website:
Two sleepers teams can view on my website, waiting to be discovered are Garret Palmer, (San Diego State, combination Kicker / Punter) and Shane Phillips (Australian Punter).
I hope these letters will get more NFL Special Teams Coaches to check out my website and give the kickers, punters and snappers more exposure.
Tomorrow, I have Tyler Cope, a kicker from Oregon State coming to Scottsdale, for some One on One Lessons.
Stay tuned for more of Coach Zauner's Blog!
Sunday, May 11, 2008
On Sunday, I worked with Shane Phillips for the fourth time. Shane is originally from Australia.
Shane played baseball and football at Alcorn State and graduated in 2006. He played catcher on the baseball team and was the punter on the football team.
In the previous One on One Punting Lessons Shane who is 6'2 215 pounds showed a big leg, but was inconsistent.
Shane punted at Alcorn State, and had decent numbers, but mentioned he had never received a lick of coaching. He received my name from an agent and made contact with me.
In the first three lessons we worked simply on fundamentals. Catching snaps, molding the ball, getting the ball on the table, a consistent drop and my power zone punting technique. Shane worked hard to his own credit, he got better and became more consistent each time a saw him.
In March, he traveled to Dallas to compete in Louie Aguiars Punting Combine and after three days was ranked as the number one punter.
He called me and was all excited. He told me all the things we had worked on, were clicking and he thanked me for all my coaching assistance.
The next day during competition, there was a major thunderstorm. Shane was punting during the middle of the storm, slipped, fell and pulled his hamstring. Down he went and many of his dreams to become an NFL punter.
In attendance at the workout were 25 NFL special teams coaches and they were there to evaluate the talent. They notice his talent but his injury was going to take him out of action for about 4 to 6 weeks. This was a major set back.
However, Shane has not given up. He's back in Phoenix and working One on One Lessons again. He still wants to get better and knows working with me will help him to refine his technique and boost his confidence.
I don't put just any kicker or punter on my website, www.coachzauner.com. I must feel they are training camp worthy. After today's workout, Shane is now going up on the website. He has improved to the point where he is more consistent and hitting some excellent hang time punts. He's excellent at directional punting and has the aussie pooch punt down to a science. He deserves a shot in the NFL. I will do my best to help him with the contacts I have.
Stay tuned for more of Coach Zauner's Blog!
As we arrived at the practice field, Jamie's first question to me was, "Coach, how many kickers do you know, that are good, kick, fall back and off to the side when they kick field goals? My answer was "None".
Jamie, is a very bright young man with a good leg! He wanted to make adjustments in his style of kicking a couple of years ago, but didn't know how or who to go to.
Before the lesson even started, Jamie in his own mind, already knew he had to make some major changes in his technique if he was going to have a chance to get to the next level.
Normally, I don't change a kickers or punters style, I usually try to just refine it.
After first listening to Jamie and then watching him kick, I agreed to try to help him with a major overhaul in his kicking technique. We went to work, and work we did!
In each lesson Jamie picked up drills and executed them to perfection at first. One factor is executing a drill, but the hardest thing is consistency with perfect repetition. It's very hard for any athlete to erase learned muscle memory, good or bad.
Jamie was up for the task and attacked this mission with patients and understanding.
When we first started kicking Jamie would kick his field goals, then fall off to the side and sometimes backwards with no follow through. Below, during this drill, you can see Jamie finally kicking and transferring his weight forward through the kick and not falling backwards.
After each lesson, we watched video and Jamie, who is a real student of the kicking game understood what we were trying to achieve. We also watched video of many of the NFL finest kickers and Jamie knew we were progressing in the right direction.
Jamie worked in his hotel room between sessions on the drills we designed for him to get the correct muscle memory.
In the beginning of each new session Jamie would start off, hitting a bunch of kicks directly down the middle using his new technique. He would smile and say "that feels great"! However, every so often his old technique would return, and he would immediately feel himself going back to his old form.
I just kept telling him, repetition, repetition and more repetition.
Jamie was dedicated to getting better, knowing how good his best kicks felt when he hit them correctly. He showed great patience during the process.
In the final lesson Jamie started hot and was on fire. He hit a bunch of kicks right down the middle with perfect form. He smiled and was happy. He thought all the practice and repetitions in his hotel room had gotten ride of his old form and muscle memory.
Then, out of the blue, his old form reared its ugly head one more time and Jamie for the first time looked frustrated! I really felt bad for him.
We took a small break for him to clear his head and relax. He was trying so hard to be perfect.
I told Jamie, he had made remarkable progress in just two days transforming his kicking style. The good news, he knows what to do and what to work on. However, he must practice these drills when he returns home, and in two or three weeks everything will be so much more natural for him. The repetition and muscle memory will be more natural and he won't have to think about anything but, just kicking the ball.
It was a real pleasure meeting and working with such a nice young man! Jamie is graduating from Alabama with a double major. After watching him these last couple days, I'm confident Jamie will be very successful in life.
Stay tuned to more of Coach Zauner's Blog!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
First, we cleaned up on some minor points that we noticed on his field goal technique during the video review.
After a short warm up on one steps, we paid attention to detail on his field goal technique. I noticed from viewing the video he sent me and also during our first session, he was cocking his hips during his pre kick or setup routine. He admitted, this was something he had never noticed before. I believed this was causing him to push the ball a little right.
After the correction period he was hitting the ball right down the middle. He felt comfortable and we moved on to kickoffs.
The Bill's, Special Teams Coach, Bobby April, felt that Rian could be hitting his kickoffs a little more consistently and with more distance. He also mentioned he wanted us to work on kickoffs directionally.
We started our kickoff work. Rian kicked, I watched and observed. I asked a lot of questions and tried to figure out what was going to be best for Rian. After several kicks I asked Rian to give me some two step kickoffs. He launched a couple of kicks inside the five yard line.
Remember, Rian Lindell is 6'3 and about 235 pounds. So basically he was hitting his 2 step kickoffs about 65 yards.
We played around with a couple of technique drills to emphasize a couple things I had noticed and Rian felt he was now getting up and through the ball better.
The next thing we worked on was Rian's approach. A consistent approach is a must for the good kickoff man. We progressed from a two step approach back to a four and six step approach emphasizing a consistent step pattern. The key for Rian and every kicker's success, is getting a perfect plant, so you can impart the energy from your foot and leg into the ball efficiently. Rian hit some good kicks!
We now moved to a directional kickoff system that would be best for Rian.
The information in this section is top secret, so if I tell you, you know what I have to do.
All I can tell you is that Rian was now hitting his kickoffs directly at his targets both left and right. Before we started, Rian did not kickoff well to his left.
Rian will get even better as he goes back to Buffalo and works on this system by himself. The key is to learn, then go practice, practice and more practice. Which I know Rian will do!
It was a pleasure doing One on One Lessons with Rian Lindell. He was an excellent listener, very pleasant to work with, and a true professional.
Stay tuned for more of Coach Zauner's Blog!
Posted: Friday May 9, 2008 by Don Banks Inside the NFL
Title: Numbers Game: Shrinking Roster Size Having Growing Ramifications
Navigating the pitfalls of training camp is a numbers game for NFL teams, but this year a degree of difficulty has been added that has wide-ranging ramifications in the eyes of the league's coaches and personnel decision-makers: The new 80-man training camp roster limit.
"New'' is not entirely accurate. In reality, the 80-player camp roster has been with us for a while now. But what is novel in 2008 is that with the recent elimination of NFL Europa -- and amid a backdrop of the league's looming opt-out of the collective bargaining agreement -- there will be no more camp roster exemptions for the players who had been assigned to that spring developmental league. The average team was able to carry at least six extra players in camp due to those roster exemptions, and the difference between those numbers and the 80-man limit is not insignificant.
You may not have heard much hue and cry yet about the freezing of the camp rosters at 80, but trust us, you will. The league's football people are already up in arms about the owners' strictly financial decision this spring to limit the size of rosters, and by August the issue is expected to come to a full summertime boil.
"It's a real story, a real issue for teams,'' one veteran AFC general manager told me this week. "It's going to have a ripple effect in a lot of directions. Teams are going to have to suck it up and make some tough choices because of it. It's going to be different than it ever has been.''
The potential ripple effect that will be spawned by the simmering controversy threatens to impact everything from the amount of throwing starting quarterbacks may be forced to do in camp, to the elevated playing time and risk of injury for veterans this preseason, to the decreased opportunity that rookies will receive in their bids to make an NFL regular-season roster.
One prime example of the difficult internal roster decisions that are now unfolding revolves around the issue of how many specialists teams can afford to bring to camp. Before this year, standard operating procedure was to bring two kickers, two punters and two long-snappers to camp. That's a luxury not likely to continue at the 80-man limit. Rather than necessarily searching for the best available talent at those positions, teams are prizing versatility above all else. If you're a punter who can also kick off, or a kicker who can handle some punting duties at least in the preseason, your chances to receive an invite to an NFL camp have risen significantly.
"We're not taking a second snapper to camp,'' said Baltimore executive vice president/general manager Ozzie Newsome. "We know it's going to be tough at certain positions. Teams are all looking for that punter who can kick off, or a kicker who can punt. Anything that helps you save a roster spot. There are positions where you've got to have extra bodies because you need fresh legs to practice.''
Gary Zauner, a former Vikings, Ravens and Cardinals special teams coach, is now a Phoenix-based special teams consultant who trains kickers, punters and snappers and helps them find roster spots within professional football. Several NFL teams have contacted him this spring seeking candidates for double duty in camp, rather than the top-rated prospect at any one particular position.
"They're no longer taking the best guy, they're taking the guy who is the most convenient for them given the 80-man limit,'' Zauner said. "To me, it's just a case where the NFL didn't look at this decision long enough. Everybody's trying to maximize the combination guy rather than the true specialists. Teams are saying get me a kicker who can punt, or a punter who can field goal kick and kick off. But the guys they're bringing in aren't as quality as they can be. Almost no one is bringing in two of everything this year. You need two kickers, two punters and two snappers to get through camp and get guys some rest. It's going to be a problem unless it's addressed.''
But special teams isn't the only segment of an NFL roster that may wind up bearing the brunt of the shortage of bodies this summer.
"It's going to affect older players,'' the AFC general manager said. "Because older players that need to have rest and need to be managed through the preseason are going to have to practice more. Coaches are going to say, 'I don't want to sign this guy. He can only do one-a-days in camp, or he'll need a day off twice a week. I won't be able to practice.' Older, veteran teams are going to be impacted.''
Get ready for a fresh round of debate on the necessity of a four-game preseason schedule as well, league sources say, because with starters needing to play more in those August exhibition games due to the reduction in the number of camp bodies, there will be more injuries suffered by regulars. And that will get everyone focused on the camp-roster issue.
"The preseason games are really going to be impacted, because I think you're going to see more players that you don't want to see injured in preseason games injured,'' the AFC general manager said. "Because they had to play more. And when those guys start getting hurt, there's going to be an outcry about it and the whole preseason-game issue will resurface.
"It's only six players, but every player really counts. Young coaches are really going to get tested in how they manage practices and games. You're not going to have the extra set of legs around to give the veteran offensive linemen the day off, to give the veteran receivers the day off. A lot of coaches won't think it through enough and they'll try to just suck it up.''
In addition, a team that went deep into the playoffs last season, and perhaps suffered some injuries doing it, may be at an even more severe disadvantage under the 80-man camp roster limit. Consider the Patriots at the start of camp in 2007, coming off their run to the previous AFC title game. New England had defensive end Richard Seymour and receiver Chad Jackson starting camp on the preseason physically unable to perform list, and safety Rodney Harrison was suspended by the league late in the preseason for violating the league's substance abuse policy. All three players counted against the team's 80-man camp roster, shrinking the Patriots' pool of available players even further.
"Players who had offseason surgery and start camp on PUP, not being able to practice really hurt you now,'' said the AFC general manager. "That becomes a big problem with fewer roster spots available. I know we're going with one kicker and one long-snapper in camp this year, and we've always had two of each in the past. Maybe you go with one fewer quarterback, one less arm in camp. That means your starter is throwing more. That's one thing that everybody loved about NFL Europa, the quarterback exemption you got from it. But having one less arm in camp, one less quarterback to develop, that's a big thing. This thing goes in a lot of different directions.''
The impetus behind the owners' move to freeze rosters at 80 is the cost savings they realize from having fewer players in camp, especially given that teams were reportedly losing roughly $1 million per year on NFL Europa. More importantly, with team owners trying to build the case that their profit margins are surprisingly thin given the nation's economic downturn, and that the players received too much of the financial pie in the 2006 CBA settlement, they're in no mood to send the signal that another half-dozen camp roster spots per team is negotiable.
That's why the owners at the league's annual meeting last month in Palm Beach, Fla., tabled both a proposal by Tampa Bay to increase rosters to 90 at the beginning of camp, and an NFL management council proposal to make 86 players the operative limit at the start of the preseason. Both proposals remain on the agenda for further discussion at this month's spring owners meeting in Atlanta (May 19-21), but league sources tell me that no one sees much likelihood of the owners reversing their position before serious CBA talks resume with the NFL players union over the course of the next year or two.
"We hear it's a bargaining chip in the next round of CBA negotiations,'' said one league executive. "The 80-man camp roster is going to be a two or three-year problem that will have to be dealt with by everyone, because the owners can't just give the union jobs and not get anything in return for it. Getting camp rosters back where they were before will be part of any new CBA deal that eventually gets done.''
Football people within the NFL rightly believe it's a pretty short-sighted approach by league owners, because the downside costs of limiting camp rosters to 80 could far outweigh the meager savings of slicing six bodies from a team's preseason contingent. During the preseason, rookies only make about $1,000 per week, so the cost of carrying six more collegiate free agents is minimal compared to the risk of having to pay off multiple players with injury settlements brought on by short-handed teams not being able to patiently wait while a player recovers from a preseason injury.
"If a guy has a four or five-day hamstring injury, and you've got two guys hurt at that position, you're probably going to have to make an injury settlement with one of them and go find another body in order to conduct practice,'' Newsome said. "That's the reality this year.''
With NFL teams carrying an average of 86 players at the start of camp last year, that's 192 players (32 teams, at six each) who won't be invited to compete for roster jobs this summer. Those 192 jobs eventually will be used as leverage with the union, which always fights for more opportunities for players, but teams this year won't have that pool of potential injury replacements on hand at the start of camp.
"The young coaches who aren't careful about how they practice are really going to have some problems,'' said the veteran AFC general manager. "You're going to have to give guys injury settlements really quickly in order to get fresh legs in there to practice, and that's not going to be good for the team or the players.
"Not only is there the expense of the injury settlements, but for that one player, it eliminates the possibility of re-signing with that team for quite a while. Let's say a player agrees to a four-week injury settlement. On top of that you have to add the six weeks that he's not allowed to re-sign with you for, and now you're talking 10 weeks before that player can come back to you. That's going to hurt in some cases.''
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, fully representing the wishes of the league's owners in this case, dismissed the concerns with the size of camp rosters at last month's annual meeting.
"Coaches would have rosters that, literally -- it used to be 120 or 130,'' Goodell said. "There were no limits on it. I think it's just trying to keep the game competitive, and make sure that everybody's operating at the same level -- that 80 was sufficient. Yes, we've had exemptions from NFL Europa players, but that 80 was sufficient for what we were trying to do from a competitive standpoint and from a business standpoint.''
But coaches and personnel men in the league aren't focused on the "business standpoint.'' They're going to be left dealing with the real-life consequences of trying to construct a regular-season roster, and they're going to have less of a margin of error in that process than in the recent past.
Teams that are known for giving undrafted players a legitimate shot to make their roster will also feel the impact of having fewer roster spots in camp. The Colts are perhaps foremost on that list, and both head coach Tony Dungy and general manager Bill Polian have been outspoken in their opposition to the 80-man roster limit.
"I think we had six guys (from our) Super Bowl (team in 2006) who were collegiate free agents and played prominent roles,'' said Dungy last month, himself a former undrafted free agent who made the Pittsburgh Steelers roster as a rookie in 1977. "Gary Brackett, Josh Thomas, Jeff Saturday, Dominic Rhodes, Ben Utecht, and Aaron Moorehead. This is what we try to sell, that if you come to us, we'll give you a chance to show what you can do. But this means we'll miss out on some of the guys who could have helped us.''
Dungy said the new roster limit even quickens the pace of evaluating players, which can't begin with the start of training camp, as it has in past years.
"We'll tailor it and cut down on the injuries and all of that, but it's going to force us to decide, 'Is this rookie free agent better than the guys we have here?' '' Dungy told the Colts' team Web site last week. " 'Can he help us more? What are his chances of helping us?' You're going to have to make those decisions much faster and you're not going to be right as often.
"You have to find out what guys can do and make some decisions before we go to training camp. That's unfortunate, but that's the way it is. Our numbers are pretty well going to be set by just being able to make it through camp with this number of guys. I was not a fan (of the new rule), nor was Bill, but that's what we have to work with.''
In the NFL this preseason, making the numbers game work is going to be a challenging competition all to itself.
I thought this was an excellent article by Don Banks. I thank Don for his attention to the kicking specialists and the kicking game. Hopefully, the NFL will look at the rule and it's ramifications to all aspects of the game and open up several more roster spots so each team can bring in two quality specialists at each position and keep the quality of kicking going in the right direction!
Stay tuned for more of Coach Zauner's Blog!
Thursday, May 8, 2008
This is the first time I've met Rian, and he is big for a kicker! Rian is about 6'3 and 235 pounds.In the 2007 season, Rian was 24 of 27 on field goals for a 88.9 % average.
A couple of months ago at the NFL combine, Bobby April, special teams coach with the Buffalo Bills, (who by the way is a great guy) approached me. He asked if I could help Rian improve his kickoff distance and accuracy.
Now here is a coach, and team, the Buffalo Bills, who in the last 3 or 4 years, have had one of the best special teams units, and their still looking for ways to get better. Rian Lindell is looking to get better and help his team win the battle of field position and win more games!
Here, I'm discussing with Rian, how we're going to help make him a better directional kickoff man, plus, improve his kickoff distance.
When working with a pro, college or high school kicker I start all lessons the same. I have the kickers just kick and show me their style of kicking. Rian's started with two sets of one step kicks then progressed to field goals.
Before Rian came into town, Coach April send me some video of Rian kicking field goals and kicking off so I could familiarize myself with his style of kicking.
Rian is a real student of the kicking game and knows kicking, but admitted that in the last couple of weeks when he was kicking he just didn't feel right!
After viewing his video, then watching him kick in person and listening to him to describe what he thought the problem was, we went to work on trying to make him feel better!
It took a little time, some trial and error but Rian eventually felt better about his form. In the end, he was kicking the ball, right down the middle just like he always does and more importantly, he felt smoother!
We finished the first lesson with kickoffs! We continued video taping and documenting all his kicks so later when we watch his lesson we can analyze his technique and make corrections.
After the first lesson we had a great video session. Rian could now see some of the observations I had made to him. Rian was a sponge. He took out a pad of paper and took notes.
Rian is a true professional and was a pleasure to work with. Tomorrow we will take what we saw on video and try to get better.
For the guys that have come to Fountain Hills for One on One Lessons, several of the kickers love to play golf and so does Rian. We went to my club, FireRock and played a quick 15 holes of golf in the afternoon.
I know Brett Kern (the Toledo punter and Denver Broncos free agent), reads my blog and always wants to know if anyone has beaten me on the golf course yet.
So, to Brett and all the guys that I have beat in a skins game, Rian Lindell was no exception. After 15 holes, Coach Zauner was up 7 skins or seven dollars. The streak goes on!
Tomorrow is lesson two with Rian, plus, Jamie Christensen, the kicker from Alabama is coming to Arizona for the weekend and some One on One Kicking Lessons.
Stay tuned for more of Coach Zauner's Blog!
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Title of Artcle: Camp helped DeBauche kick away woes
Former Badgers punter could push Ryan for job
By Bob McGinn - email@example.com Posted: May 2, 2008
Green Bay - Kenny DeBauche had become such a pedestrian punter late in his career at Wisconsin that two National Football League special-teams coaches didn't even know his name several weeks before the draft.
DeBauche's confidence wasn't high in late March when he paid his way to Phoenix for three days of workouts with Gary Zauner, the Milwaukee native and NFL special-teams coach from 1994-2006 who is now a consultant and instructor.
Two weeks later, DeBauche had an outstanding workout in Green Bay which, in turn, led to a free-agent contract with the Packers.
"He definitely helped me," DeBauche said of Zauner. "He didn't give me anything new but some different ways to think about things and different drills to work on. I feel more confident now."
In mid-April, DeBauche worked out in the Hutson Center before general manager Ted Thompson, the special-teams coaches and various personnel people.
"I was on the spot," DeBauche said. "I punted five down the middle, five to the right and five to the left. In that time I don't know that I got fully warmed up. I don't think it's the best I ever hit the ball but I was pleased."
The Packers signed DeBauche almost immediately after the draft to a three-year contract."Coach (Mike) Stock (special teams coordinator) said he was really impressed," DeBauche said. "He said it was one of the best punter workouts like that he has ever had in his years of coaching.
For a guy like him to say that, it was not only nice to hear but it also helped my confidence." The first day, March 27, Zauner wasn't sold on DeBauche. But after making some adjustments Zauner now says DeBauche should be a worthy challenger to Jon Ryan
"He's smooth, very smooth," Zauner said. "We changed his drop and all of a sudden he started hitting 4.8s, 4.9s and 5.0 hang time."
Last season, Ryan posted a net average of 37.6 yards, 12th in the NFL and the finest in Green Bay since 1969. His gross mark of 44.4 was the fourth-best in club history. He also has worked to become an effective holder.
However, Ryan did have a terrible game in Chicago on Dec. 23 that led in part to training-camp competition.
"I'll tell the truth if I punt bad," said DeBauche, who also excels as a holder. "If I go out there and see that Jon Ryan is a better punter than me, that I don't have a shot, I'll tell it like it is. But that's not how I feel right now. I feel like I can punt in the NFL . . . and for the Packers."
Every 10 years or so, the Packers sign a player from Green Bay, which isn't exactly a hotbed of high-school football. DeBauche, who played three sports just outside the city at Bay Port, views the home-town angle as far more of a positive than a negative "as long as I don't get bad publicity."
Although one NFL scout said DeBauche clearly punted better in his first two seasons than his last two at UW, DeBauche isn't convinced.
"I know there're punts I could have hit better," he said. "But I try to look back at games and I can't remember many games where I was out-punted. You've got to take into consideration the conditions and the (game) situations."
Just one punter, Georgia Tech's Durant Brooks, was drafted (sixth round). NFL people labeled this a bad year for punters but DeBauche, with a new lease on life, doesn't see any reason why he might not turn out to be the best.
"Most teams knew nothing about him," Zauner said. "A few coaches later saw some tapes of him on my website and said, 'Hey, that was pretty good.' I do think he has a shot."