It's preseason! NFL Football is upon us!
Well, almost. The starters barely played that 1st game, if at all, and the best a team can do in preseason is to complete it with minimal (and minimum) injuries. However, these 4 weeks (5 with the HOF game) provide coaches a great sample of game-tape on back-ups, albeit against other 2nd- and 3rd-string guys.
Which got me thinking...what are coaches looking for? What's the difference between a Tom Brady and a Drew Bledsoe? Eli Manning and David Carr? Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy? (Alright, seriously, though. The Browns screwed Colt McCoy over...moving on...)
In this little series, I'll be trying to come up with the "ideal" football player at each position, the combination of physical gifts and talents, mental faculties and attitudes, and football abilities that best suit each position. I'm not looking for the tallest, fastest, or strongest guy; I'm trying to find the combination of attributes that would enable success at each respective position.
Usually, good ol' special teams gets shafted over to the end, or appears in a hastily-appended segment to a write-up like this. Let's show the guys some love, shall we?
Admittedly, the "physical" aspect of being a placekicker is singular: how strong is his leg? Now, a kicker doesn't have to be able to smash it through from 60 yards out; usually, teams only bother attempting a kick from that distance at the end of the half, or the conclusion of an already-decided game. Teams are more likely to wonder, were the game hanging in the balance, could their kicker nail a 52-yard field goal? Yes, a leg equivalent to Chad Pennington's arm probably wouldn't get the job done, but one's lower limbs need not mimic Cristiano Ronaldo's, either.
The more important traits would be the "skill" involved--accuracy--and the mental toughness. A kicker needs to be consistent and reliable, and if called upon for a game-winning or -tying FG, he needs to be able to focus and deliver in the clutch.
Current players who fit the description: Robbie Gould, Stephen Gotskowski, Seabass (at least, last year)
Punters also fall into the "needs a pretty good leg" category. However, that doesn't mean guys like Matt Dodge automatically achieve greatness. The ability to work with the coverage team to pin guys deep, or possessing the ever-laudable skill of the coffin-corner punt, is far more important to the art of punting. As is not kicking a line-drive to DeSean Jackson with the game winding down. Punters who have the leg to get 5+ seconds of hangtime on a boot, while still being able to place the ball in a favorable spot for the coverage unit, are the guys teams are looking for.
Current Players: Shane Lechler, Andy Lee
Not both kickoff- and punt-returners, just kickoff-returners. These guys don't necessarily have to possess that rare top gear, though it does help; it's more an ability to read and use blocks, see the running lanes, and hit 'em hard. Elusiveness and/or tackle-busting ability is a plus.
Current Players: Josh Cribbs
Speed kills. 'Tis is especially true on punt returns. The top guys here all share that lethal combo of game-breaking speed and ankle-breaking elusiveness. The ability to actually field a punt cleanly is an underrated part of this position, until the NFC Championship game comes around. The whole see-and-use-blocks thing comes into play here as well, though to a lesser extent than in the KO-returns.
Current Players: The GOAT...also, DeSean Jackson, Patrick Peterson, Antonio Brown
That's all for today, folks! I guess the next installment will feature the defense...I'm open to suggestions on position: DE, DT, ILB, OLB, CB, or S.