For over 30 years, Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning-News has published his annual NFL special teams rankings. Gosselin ranks each team in 22 special teams categories and assigns points from one for the best to 32 for the worst.
It should be no surprise that the Philadelphia Eagles were the top team this year. After finishing 18th last season, the Eagles finished with 201.5 points, 26.5 points better than Buffalo. Among other things, the Eagles had seven touchdowns on special teams and blocked six kicks.
The other top teams after Philadelphia and Buffalo were New England, Atlanta and Baltimore. At the bottom were Tennessee, San Diego, Washington, Carolina and, in last place, Green Bay.
Last night in Las Vegas, Blake Ferguson became the first two-time winner of the Chris Rubio Award given annually to the top high school long snapper. Ferguson, who will attend LSU next year, also took home the award last year.
The long snappers for this year’s Pro Bowl were selected today. With the new Pro Bowl draft format in place, the two coaching staffs have traditionally selected the other team’s snapper.
This year, the coaches are from the Ravens and Cowboys. With Morgan Cox of the Ravens injured, the Cowboys selected Jon Dorenbos of the Eagles, while the Ravens picked L.P. Ladouceur from the Cowboys. This will be the second Pro Bowl appearance for Dorenbos, while it will be the first for Ladouceur.
One of the more exciting elements of a great NFL playoff weekend was the back-to-back leaps over the long snapper by Kam Chancellor of the Seahawks. Chancellor leaped over Panther snapper J.J. Jansen on consecutive field goal attempts. Unfortunately for Chancellor, his athletic plays went for naught.
On the first kick, Chancellor just missed the ball and the kick was good. However, a false start penalty on the Panthers moved the kick back. The second time, Chancellor leaped Jansen again and the kick was missed, but Chancellor made contact with kicker Graham Gano, resulting in a penalty.
Last month, Daren Bates of the Rams cleanly executed a similar move over Giants snapper Zak DeOssie and blocked a field goal attempt. A few NFL rules come into play on these efforts to block a kick by leaping over the snapper. If the defender touches the ball, there is no penalty. Also, if the player leaps over the snapper and does not land on another player, there is no penalty. Contact with a player, however, will result in a flag.
The process leading up to this year’s NFL Draft continues today with the first college all-star game, the Medal of Honor Bowl. The game will feature two snapping prospects in Charlie Coggins (East Carolina) and Nate Boyer (Texas). Boyer, who has been featured on Longsnap.com in the past, will attempt to make the NFL despite being a bit undersized and, at 34 years old, older than a typical rookie.
There are two games next week, with the NFLPA Bowl Game featuring snappers John Sheperdson (California) and Alex Freeman (Texas A&M). The East-West Shrine Game does not have any dedicated snapping specialists on the roster at this time.
Finally, on January 24th, the premier all-star game, the Senior Bowl, will showcase Joe Cardona (Navy) and Andrew East (Vanderbilt). Cardona will also be the lone snapper at the NFL Combine in February.
With some key playoff matchups this week in the NFL, it is a good time to take a quick look back at some numbers from the 2014 regular season.
NFL kickers were slightly less successful compared to last season. Kickers made 84% of their kicks, which was down 2.5% from last year. Extra points remain nearly automatic although slightly less so this season. This year, extra points were made 99.3% of the time compared to 99.6% last season.
The Pro Bowl long snappers will likely be chosen in the next week or two. In the meantime, the statistical analysis team at Pro Football Focus have named Jon Dorenbos as their All-Pro snapper this season. According to Gordon McGuinness, Dorenbos has 168 snaps and graded out at +5.1. Dorenbos was remarkably consistent, with only three inaccurate snaps that caused his grade to slip just a bit.
With some NFL teams preparing for next season, the Chiefs have gotten a jump on the snapping position by signing two street free agents to reserve/future contracts for 2015. Jorgen Hus, who has prior experience with the Rams and Seahawks, and Brandon Hartson, who spent time with the Bears, have each been added to the roster in Kansas City.
Veteran snapper Thomas Gafford is an unrestricted free agent and these two additions may mean that the Chiefs will not make re-signing Gafford a priority.