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Thread: Brown, Bulger Get Acclimated
Brown, Bulger Get Acclimated
Brown, Bulger Get Acclimated
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
By Nick Wagoner
As football fundamentals go, there might not be a more uncomfortable technique than the center/quarterback exchange.
And each time a quarterback begins working with a center he’s never dealt with before, the prickly process of the snap begins anew.
Such is life during the next couple of months for Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and his new pivot, Jason Brown.
“Every time we do an exchange, I have to ask Marc where is the placement? Where are you getting it in your hands? Does it feel good? Does it feel comfortable back there? Where does he place his hands?” Brown said. “That’s one of the most awkward things out there on the football field, I am bending over and he is placing his hands underneath my rear end. Of course, we get a lot of jokes from our families and teammates and what not.”
Awkward though it may be, the snap is perhaps the most important part of any offensive play. Without a successful exchange, no running back ever gets a chance to take off for a long gain or no long bomb can ever be thrown.
For that reason, it’s not unusual for teams to do their best to keep a good center/quarterback combination in place for as long as possible. Breaking in a new center can be difficult for any quarterback, especially one used to working with the same one for a number of years.
“I worked with Andy McCollum for years and it was just a natural thing that you didn’t have to think about,” Bulger said.
In fact, Bulger worked with McCollum for the better part of four seasons. Soon enough, the exchange became second nature and it was no coincidence that Bulger had some of his best seasons with McCollum in front of him.
Around the league, one of the most underrated aspects of the top quarterbacks is the stability of having the same center in front of them. In Indianapolis, Peyton Manning has had Jeff Saturday for years. In New England, Tom Brady has Dan Koppen and in San Diego Philip Rivers has Nick Hardwick.
Those relationships have made for smooth exchanges that have led to a number of successful and winning seasons.
Now, it’s up to Brown and Bulger to form a long term relationship of their own.
“It’s a transition and it’s definitely a challenge,” Brown said. “Right now, the coaching staff feels it is very important for myself and Marc to form that relationship as well and get it going early. These days are counting down so fast; it will be training camp before you know it and we will be right into the preseason. Then it will be right to the regular season. It is a challenge and it is a transition but it can be done. I know it can and we are progressing and moving in the right direction every day.”
Almost since his arrival via a lucrative long term contract signed at the beginning of the free agent period in late February, Brown has been a regular around the team’s training facility.
At the top of his list of priorities is getting to a point with Bulger where the snap becomes second nature.
On every play, the center holds down a number of responsibilities. Before he even gets into his stance, it is Brown’s job to be aware of the defense, get into position, bark out the line calls and point out potential blitzes or line changes to his fellow offensive linemen.
When all of that is complete, it’s up to Brown to get the snap off, whether the quarterback is under center or in the shotgun and then proceed to handle his blocking assignment.
When the play is over, the center get in the huddle and prepares to do it all over again.
Although there is no set time in which the ball should be out of Brown’s hands and into Bulger’s, Brown says there is a certain sense of urgency necessary on every play.
“It’s pretty much from when he says set, hut, I want it in his hands as fast as I can get the ball off the ground into his hands,” Brown said. “It’s just that quick. We don’t time it up to make it slower or faster it’s just get it out as fast as I can go in rhythm.”
With all of those responsibilities to handle, the last thing the center, the quarterback or anyone on the offense wants to worry about is the snap.
The only way to eliminate any concerns about the snap is through simple repetition. That’s why Brown and Bulger will perform thousands of exchanges before ever doing one in a game.
“We practice so many snaps well before we even start a single play, just practicing from where I place the ball to getting it up into the hands,” Brown said.
The adjustment to a new quarterback for a center can be a simple one but it can also be difficult depending on the way the quarterback likes things. Because the quarterback is perhaps the most important player in any offense, it’s up to the center to adjust to what the quarterback wants.
Sometimes that change can be the equivalent of a catcher in baseball being used to catching a hard throwing righty to handling a knuckleball tossing lefty.
Brown has worked with Rams backup Kyle Boller in the past and was with rookie Joe Flacco last year in Baltimore. He says the difference between Bulger and Boller is noticeable.
“Some quarterbacks don’t reach far enough underneath and some reach a little bit too far,” Brown said. “It’s all about finding a happy medium and both of us working together to find the point where it’s instinct and we are just doing it and he’s comfortable with how I’m snapping the ball and he’s comfortable with how he is receiving the ball. When you have that rhythm and you are in synch, that’s when we are not going to have any problems as far as C/Q exchange.”
Things can get even more complicated when you factor in the different types of snaps and the effect Mother Nature can have on the snap. Although the Rams will play half their games at the Edward Jones Dome, Brown says he and Bulger will work on snapping balls that are frozen (like they might be when the Rams play in Chicago in December) or wet (which is a possibility as soon as the season opener in Seattle).
The difference in working out of the shotgun can make a significant impact as well. The Rams had myriad problems with shotgun snaps last season as Nick Leckey and Brett Romberg shared center duties.
The ideal shotgun snap will land right at the numbers of the center. That's an area Leckey struggled with some last season.
A wobbly or off target shotgun snap can completely ruin the timing of routes, especially in a timing oriented offense such as the one the Rams are in the process of installing.
“The quarterback shouldn’t have to worry about ‘Oh, well Jason is pulling to the right, am I going to have to worry about the ball being a little off center,’” Brown said. “Instead of Marc being able to look down field and at the coverage and his receivers, if I snap it wrong, he has to worry about being able to find the ball then do all of that. So of course, I am going to try to get it back in a nice spiral. I don’t want it wobbling like a duck. I will try to get a nice spiral and that makes his job a lot easier. Then all he has to worry about is putting his hands in his chest and know the ball is going to come at the same speed and in the same spot every time. Then he can just focus on reading the defenses and getting the ball to the receivers.”
Bulger says all of that work is already to start paying off though he and Brown don’t have it down completely quite yet.
“We’re getting a lot better now,” Bulger said. “We haven’t had any fumbled snaps or anything, but it’s just a comfort level where you know where he’s pointing and you know the rhythm of the cadence and it’s just a flow. I think that once you don’t have to think about it any more, on certain plays if he’s pulling, you know that it might go a little left, but you just help out. We’re not there yet, but it’s been a pretty easy transition, but just repetition I think will help that.”
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Re: Brown, Bulger Get Acclimated
"the prickly process of the snap begins anew." ?!
I don't mean to be all Beavis & Butthead about it, but that's pretty punny....
Re: Brown, Bulger Get Acclimated
it feels good to know we have a Center thats concentrating only on snapping the ball, and a Fullback thats concentrating on blocking.
Dont mean to be the immature one in the bunch, but..
i had a hard time concentrating on this funny a** article with all the things Brown was saying..Must be hard to keep a straight facing hearing him say, "Your too far in Marc, too far in...a little to the...yeah, yeah there you go, hows it feeling back there?" lol
Re: Brown, Bulger Get Acclimated
Randy is certainly no tight end.
As for the Bulger/Brown relationship, I bet it went something like....
Jason: "What is it, Marc?"
Marc: "Oh... nothing, its just that, well... there's a lot more room back here for my hands."
Jason: "Thanks for noticing."
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