Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Special Teams - Big Play Files - Dez Return vs Chicago

Today, I want to start a series where we look at each "big play" (good or bad) from the Special Teams in 2010.

The Big Plays -----

1. Week 2 vs Chicago - Dez Bryant TD punt return
2. Week 5 vs Tennessee - Marc Mariani kickoff return
3. Week 6 at Minnesota - Percy Harvin TD kickoff return
4. Week 7 vs New York Giants - Dez Bryant TD punt return
5. Week 9 at Green Bay - Nick Collins TD off McCann kickoff return
6. Week 11 vs Detroit - McCann punt return for TD
7. Week 12 vs New Orleans - Holley strips Bush on punt return
8. Week 13 at Indianapolis - McBriar Punt blocked for TD

1. Week 2 vs Chicago - Dez Bryant TD punt return

There is not much in the game of football I understand less than special teams, and I thought we could try our best to learn together this season what they are trying to accomplish there. Certainly not to the same extent as "Decoding Garrett", but let's at least examine any substantial special teams play and find out what went right or wrong.

So, here is the play:

And with a little help from TC, here is a good look at how the Cowboys set up Sunday for that Punt Return:

The 11 Cowboys on the field: 88-Dez Bryant, 27-Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, 17-Sam Hurd, 32-Orlando Scandrick, 42-Barry Church, 36-Michael Hamlin, 52-Leon Williams, 58-Jason Williams, 23-Tashard Choice, 40-Danny McCray, and 20-Alan Ball.

I find it interesting what kind of player you want on the field for punt return, and then where they are aligned. I think Special Teams Coach Joe DeCamillis is a real find and a potential head coach candidate at some point for some team. Remember, John Harbaugh, the coach of the Ravens, went straight from being the special teams coach of the Philadelphia Eagles right to that job.

Anyway, they do not double team the gunners on the edge like you see sometimes, and they also have a return man and more shallow "protector" in Owusu-Ansah back to help set up the return. Then Sam Hurd is right over center and it looks like he has to sprint back and help set the edge for which ever direction they called for the return. 52 and 58, Leon and Jason Williams are the only players with any size on the field, and they are just linebackers, so you can understand now why some teams think they can snap the ball and run for a few yards on a fake - because there is no Jay Ratliff or Marcus Spears on a punt return team to drop anchor in the line. It is all speed, speed, speed. And if Dez can make one guy miss, he can be off to the races.

Last time the Cowboys returned a punt for a TD was last year against Seattle when Patrick Crayton broke it , and just to show you what DeCamillis (and all Special Teams coaches in the NFL) has to deal with when the realities of a 45-man game day roster hit home, here are the 11 who were on the field for that return just 10 months ago:
84 Crayton, 89 Phillips, 53 Octavien, 17 Hurd, 34 Anderson, 25 Watkins, 32 Scandrick, 20 Ball, 57 Butler, 85 Ogletree, and 18 Buehler.

3! Just 3 of the same players from a successful punt return last November. Heck, Leon Williams and Barry Church were playing their first game ever with the Cowboys on Sunday and they were key members of this return. Impressive.

Make sure you add any plays to this project that I might be overlooking in your comments below.

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