Friday, November 03, 2006

NFL: Considering the punt return

A couple of weeks ago Tuesday Morning Quarterback had this interesting tidbit:

A year ago at the Hall of Fame reception in Canton, Ohio I found myself sitting between Bill Walsh and Don Shula. I posed this question: In a day when the Bears line up five-wide and Texas Tech passes 60 times a game, are there any fundamental innovations that have not been tried? Walsh supposed someone might try using trick formations for an entire game. Shula twinkled his eyes and said: "Someday there will be a coach who doesn't punt."
Given the Steelers's problems with punt returns, i wonder about the flipside of this. What if a team did not return punts?

What is gained?

1. No more fumbles on punt returns. Your most sure-handed player is back there calling for a fair catch.

2. More blocked kicks. Since there is no need to set up a return, you can have an effective, relentless rush.

The averages and conventional wisdom says that teams which do this will lose about eight yeards per punt. But that may no be so. Currently, punters still get the kick away on most low or bobbled snaps. In the face of a determined, full-out rush, many or most of those slight miscues will become game-changing blocks or sacks.

Which is better: eight possessions starting on the 30 or seven possessions that start on the 20 PLUS one that begins at the opponents 20?

In addition, it is quite possible that this strategy will force punters to adjust by kicking quicker while sacrificing distance.

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