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  • St. Louis Rams Special Teams Improve

    St. Louis Rams special teams improve

    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    01/09/2010


    There were a lot of reasons the Rams stumbled to a 1-15 record in their just-completed season. Just don't blame special teams.

    In fact, you could make a case that under rookie special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, St. Louis enjoyed its best special teams play of the decade.

    That's a somewhat muted distinction, given the shoddy play that has characterized the unit for much of the decade. Then again ...

    — The Rams' league-wide rankings in net punting (second), punt coverage (fourth) and kickoff coverage (22nd) were the highest for the team in the decade. (That's right, a No. 22 ranking on kickoff coverage was a single-season best for the Rams from 2000 through 2009.)

    — The Rams' ranking in kickoff returns (11th) was their second-highest ranking of the decade; gross punting (fourth) was third-best; and punt returns (eighth) was fourth-best.

    McMahon was pleased but not overwhelmed by the progress the unit made this season.

    "At the end of the day, what you're looking for is wins, and that's what we need to do," McMahon said. "We have to play better on special teams to get us those wins.

    "So we need to improve, and that's what we're going to do this offseason. I think that the guys have that in mind. We're looking forward to that first game (of 2010) coming out and hitting it right away, and not having the mistakes that we had this year."

    The Rams were plagued by special teams penalties and mistakes early in the season, including having 12 men on the field as Seattle attempted a field goal in the season opener. In Game 4, San Francisco scored a gift TD when a ***** punt bounced off Quincy Butler's leg and Butler failed to fall on the ball in the end zone.

    There were other hiccups along the way, such as Courtney Roby's 97-yard kickoff return for a TD for New Orleans. And Danny Amendola's lost fumble on a punt return in the Dec. 27 game in Arizona.

    But there were highlight moments as well, including kicker Josh Brown's TD pass to Daniel Fells on a fake field goal against Detroit. Against Tennessee, Kenneth Darby ran 51 yards on a fake punt, setting up the Rams' only touchdown.

    There were some highlight players as well over the course of the season.

    Reserve linebacker Chris Chamberlain was the star of the coverage units, with 28 special teams stops. That's the second-highest total since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, surpassed only by linebacker London Fletcher, who had 30 special teams stops as a rookie in 1998.

    Amendola proved to be a find as a return man after joining the Rams in Week 3. In 14 games, he set Rams franchise marks for kickoff returns (66), kickoff return yards (1,618), combined punt and kickoff returns (97), and total return yards (1,978).

    Granted, with opponents scoring often, Amendola got plenty of chances on kickoff returns, which helped his overall numbers. But there was quality to go along with that quantity. His kickoff return average of 24.5 yards was the fourth-highest by any Rams player (with 20 or more returns) in the 15 seasons of the "St. Louis" Rams.

    "I've liked what I've seen from Danny," McMahon said. "I like Danny's toughness. He's accountable and he's reliable. And that's what those other 10 guys want back there, is somebody they believe in. They know he's going to catch the ball, he's going to give every single thing he can to get that extra yard. They're going to work for him because he works for them."

    Another impressive season by punter Donnie Jones helped the Rams do a better job with field position. Jones altered his approach, at McMahon's request, placing more emphasis on directional punting. But he still finished fourth in the league in overall punting average (46.8) and second in net punting (41.7).

    (Net punting subtracts return yardage and yardage lost on touchbacks from the overall total.)

    Jones also dropped 34 punts inside the 20, which was the fourth-best total in the NFL this season and a Rams franchise record. Nonetheless, those numbers weren't good enough to get Jones in the Pro Bowl. He was a third alternate, with Andy Lee of San Francisco earning the NFC berth.

    In Jones' three seasons in St. Louis, the Rams have never ranked below fourth in either overall punting or net punting in any season. But Pro Bowl recognition continues to elude him.

    "I can't control the voting for the Pro Bowl," Jones said. "All I can control is what I do on the field. I think the years I've had here have been really good. If I never get selected, nobody can take away what I've done."

  • #2
    Re: St. Louis Rams Special Teams Improve

    Jones would be a perennial Pro Bowler if he played for a media darling like New England, Dallas or New York.

    Amendola has been nothing but productive, and most likely will be for years to come. Just an amazing pickup.

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    • MauiRam
      Rams' special teams are making strides ..
      by MauiRam
      BY JIM THOMAS
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      11/11/2009

      At the start of the 2009 season, it looked like there were going to be enough Rams special teams blunders to fill a reel of football follies.

      — There was a lost fumble on the season-opening kickoff return by Donnie Avery in Seattle.

      — A blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by Quincy Butler in that same game was negated by a penalty for having 12 men on the field.
      — Anthony Smith's holding penalty wiped out a 92-yard kickoff return by Danny Amendola to open the San Francisco game.

      — And the ultimate in muffed punts in that same ***** game, resulting in a San Francisco touchdown. (The ball struck Butler in the leg; he compounded the problem by trying to pick up the ball in the end zone.)

      Rookie special teams coordinator Tom McMahon stayed the course, and the Rams' play has stabilized in this area. There's still plenty of room for improvement, but at the midpoint of the 2009 season, the Rams rank seventh in punt coverage and 13th in kickoff coverage in the NFL. They finished 22nd and 32nd, respectively, in those areas last season.

      The improvement isn't as dramatic in the return game, where the Rams rank 17th in punt returns and 19th in kickoff returns. They finished 21st and 22nd, respectively, last year.

      "Tom McMahon has been resilient and has been relentless in his pursuit to be detailed and to keep guys consistent," place-kicker Josh Brown said. "So he's never wavered. And that's a big part of it. ... He's constantly, constantly pushing and working. And that's a big deal."

      In the return game, the goal is to get 10 yards on each punt return and reach the 30-yard line on each kickoff return.

      "We're averaging eight yards a (punt) return," McMahon said. "We need those extra 2 yards. We call it a first down — we want to give the offense a first down on punt returns."

      On kickoff returns, McMahon would settle for an average drive start on the 25-yard line.

      "A 25.5 drive start puts you in the top 10 (in the NFL) and gives your offense a start and a chance," he said. "We're getting too many balls stopped at the 20-yard line, at the 19, the 22 here and there."

      Even with penalties wiping out a couple of long returns, the signing of Amendola two games into the season has brought the return game back to respectability.

      In the two games before Amendola's arrival, the Rams' average drive start after kickoff returns was the 20. In his six games returning kickoffs, it's the 25-yard line.

      "The biggest thing I think he's brought is the guys believe in him — they just do," said McMahon, the Rams' ninth special teams coach since the move to St. Louis in 1995. "They flat-out believe in him because he believes...
      -11-11-2009, 09:20 AM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Rams Riding Special Teams Roller-Coaster
      by r8rh8rmike
      Rams riding special teams roller-coaster

      BY JIM THOMAS
      Thursday, November 17, 2011

      The amusement parks may be closed for the summer, but for thrills and spills there's no place like Rams special teams lately.

      _ Thrills: Robert Quinn blocks a punt late in the first half against New Orleans that rolls out of bounds at the Saints' 15. Two plays later, the Rams are in the end zone for a touchdown and off and running to a stunning 31-21 upset victory Oct. 30.

      _ Spills: Arizona blocks what would've been a game-winning field goal by Josh Brown as time expires in regulation. Less than two minutes into overtime, Patrick Peterson's 99-yard punt return for a TD gives the Cardinals a shocking 19-13 victory Nov. 6.

      _ Thrills: Hired by the Rams four days earlier, David Nixon strips Cleveland punt returner Joshua Cribbs of the football midway through the fourth quarter. Ben Leber recovers the fumble at the Browns' 27. Six plays later, Brown kicks what proves to be the game-winning field goal. Brown's kick holds up in a 13-12 victory Nov. 13 only because a bungled snap and a James Hall forearm cause Phil Dawson's 22-yard field goal to veer off course with 2:10 to play.

      No Rams coach has lived on the edge like special teams coordinator Tom McMahon has these past three Sundays. One point he doesn't need to stress much is that special teams play can make or break you. All he has to do is show the evidence in the film room: from Quinn's block, to Brown's blocked field goal, to Peterson's return, to Cribbs' fumble, to Dawson's botched field goal.

      "Every play is a big play," McMahon said. "There's five plays right there that have really changed the outcome of the games. Every single play counts."

      No doubt, the toughest special teams play to swallow this season was the Peterson punt return.

      "To see it on ESPN every day and that kind of crap," said fullback Brit Miller, one of the Rams' core special teams players. "Just to suffer that loss at that point in time, where we'd done such a great job against (Peterson), for him to go out and make a play like that, it was tough."

      "After the Arizona game. . .it was a difficult week for everybody," McMahon said.

      Then came Cleveland.

      "This last weekend was almost like the tables were turned, and we finished the game the right way," McMahon said. "It has been a roller coaster. But at the end of the day you've just got to try and keep it an even keel, and play through the last play and move on."

      Win or lose, triumph or tragedy, McMahon puts each game to rest once he hits the sack that night.

      "I won't go to bed any game, doesn't matter (how) we play, until I've seen the tape," he said.

      For away games, that means...
      -11-17-2011, 09:10 PM
    • RamWraith
      Special teams again a problem
      by RamWraith
      By Bill Coats
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      08/29/2008

      KANSAS CITY — Early in the second quarter Thursday night at soggy Arrowhead Stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs' Bernard Pollard stormed in and partially blocked a Donnie Jones' punt.

      It marked the second time in as many preseason games that an opponent had gotten a hand on a Jones boot, a disturbing trend for a team just 10 days away from its regular-season opener.

      "Football is a game of field position, and a blocked punt is bad," Jones said. "It's a huge game-changing play. We've got to get it corrected for next week against Philly."

      Those aren't the only special-teams woes that have been dogging the Rams, who finished the preseason 2-2 after falling 21-17 in the annual Governor's Cup game. They committed several other miscues against the Baltimore Ravens last Saturday and added more gaffes Thursday. Among them were three long returns that led to two Chiefs touchdowns:


      — A 33-yard kickoff scamper by B.J. Sams preceded a seven-play, 62-yard drive that culminated with a 14-yard run by Kolby Smith.

      — A 34-yard punt return, after a line-drive boot by Jones under heavy pressure, set up a nine-play, 56-yard march, with Smith scoring from the 4.

      — Later, Dantrell Savage sprinted 40 yards with a kickoff, but the defense forced a three-and-out.

      "At least now we know what we what we have to work on," said Eric Bassey, a coverage-unit regular. "We have to try to make plays and change games. In order to do that, you have to be in the right spot."

      Rookie Matt Caddell, also on the coverage teams, added: "If one guy gets out of place, it's like a domino effect. It could be any one of us. We all take the blame for it."

      Rookie Lance Ball, who was lined up to Jones' left, was quick to accept responsibility for allowing Pollard to get by him. "He kind of bull-rushed me, I opened up my shoulder a little bit, and he just nicked" the ball, he said. "There's 11 guys on the field, and if one person breaks down, it can mess up the whole play."

      The Rams, who trailed 21-3 early, had a chance to close to 21-13 late in the third quarter when Josh Brown lined up for a 40-yard field goal. In a downpour, Brown pushed the ball wide right, a rare miss for the highest-paid kicker in NFL history.

      "Just a bad kick," said Brown, who refused to cite the driving rain. "You've got to contend with Mother Nature. Everything's got to be working."

      As the preseason came to a close, the Rams were on the short end of several statistical areas involving special teams:

      — Jones averaged 32.7 net yards on 20 punts, some 7 yards under his regular-season total from 2007. The net for opposing punters in the preseason was 41.4.
      ...
      -08-29-2008, 11:25 AM
    • RamDez
      Joe DeCamillis outlines the approach to Rams special teams
      by RamDez
      Approaching nearly three decades coaching special teams in the NFL, Joe DeCamillis knows what it takes to put together a successful group.

      He's guided punters, kickers, coverage units, and return units to statistically strong finishes at every stop. Most recently, in each of the last three years with the Jaguars (2018-20), his units placed seventh, fifth, and 13th respectively in veteran NFL reporter Rick Gosselin's annual special teams rankings.

      Now, he's bringing those core principles with him to Los Angeles as the Rams' new special teams coordinator.

      Early in his introductory press conference, DeCamillis pointed to two foundational pieces to his success: His passion and the quality of players.

      "I would say the secret to success is, my father-in-law, is Coach Reeves, Dan Reeves," DeCamillis said during a video conference Thursday. "So, that was a long time ago, but he told me to be myself. That was one of the biggest things that we talked about. So, I've tried to follow that as much as I can. Be as passionate every day as I can and just enjoy the job. That's really what it's all about."


      Joe DeCamillis on becoming Rams' next special team's coordinator, special teams philosophy


      Like the other phases in the game, DeCamillis said the more talented players you have, the greater chance of success.


      In that regard, he feels confident in where the Rams stand at punter – four-time Pro Bowl selection Johnny Hekker enters his 10th NFL season in 2021 and has a career average of 46.9 yards per punt. DeCamillis also likes the trajectory of kicker Matt Gay, who made 14 of 16 field-goal attempts and 16 of 16 extra-point attempts in seven games with Los Angeles last season.

      "It's to field as much as we can in coverage, which means just trying to put it in small areas, which we've got a great punter to do that," DeCamillis said. "The kicker, I think it's going to get better as we go. Then the return game, you want to spread the field, make it as wide as you can, get as many gaps as you can for your return team, and then get a great return. We've got to get a guy that can ring the bell and drop the ball over the goal line."

      The Rams were notorious for trick plays under John Fassel, their special team's coordinator from 2012-19. Hekker didn't attempt a pass under Fassel's successor, John Bonamego, last season, but DeCamillis indicated he was open to it.

      "I think it depends on what the head coach's plan is, what your team plan is," DeCamillis said. "You want to play complementary football as much as possible. Sometimes, they come up. Sometimes they don't. In Jacksonville, we were very successful the last few years doing that and I know having the talent that John has, I hope we're able to continue the 'trickeration.'"

      When it comes...
      -02-14-2021, 11:09 AM
    • MauiRam
      Special teams take step forward for Rams
      by MauiRam
      By Joe Lyons

      Will Herring has made a career of playing special teams in the National Football League. After joining the Rams in early October and quickly earning a spot as a core special-teams contributor, he recently wrapped up his eighth pro season.

      “It was definitely a blessing to be part of something special here,’’ said Herring, 31, who spent his first four seasons in Seattle and the next three in New Orleans. “The culture here on special teams was phenomenal. It starts with (head coach Jeff Fisher) and goes from there. ‘Bones’ (special teams coordinator John Fassel) is an unbelievable guy to work for. The guys here, they play super-hard for each other and for ‘Bones,’ and I think that definitely showed up on Sundays.’’

      After coming on strong last year, the Rams’ special teams took another step forward this season. And they did so with mostly first-, second- and third-year players.

      “I’m really proud of the guys and I think a lot of it goes back to last year,’’ Fassel said. “It’s a fun group to work with because they’re young, they’re motivated and they’re hungry. They have a great work ethic and they’re serious about their preparation.’’

      Like any unit, the Rams’ special teams had a few breakdowns along the way, including a first-minute blocked punt that turned into a touchdown in a 34-28 loss in Philadelphia on Oct. 5 and a mis-hit by kicker Greg Zuerlein that allowed Kansas City’s Knile Davis to return the second-half kickoff for a touchdown on Oct. 26 as the Chiefs scored 24 unanswered points after halftime in a 34-7 rout.

      But the Rams’ special-teamers countered those mistakes with a handful of game-changing plays this season:

      The team’s 28-26 home win over defending Super Bowl champion Seattle on Oct. 13 was dominated by the Rams’ special teams. A 75-yard kickoff return by Benny Cunningham set up the Rams’ go-ahead touchdown in the first quarter. In the second, on a Seattle punt from midfield, return man Tavon Austin and his teammates put on an Academy Award performance to draw the Seahawks to the right while Stedman Bailey made an over-the-shoulder catch on the left and raced 90 yards for a touchdown that put the Rams on top 21-3.

      Then, with Seattle coming on and the Rams nursing a 28-26 lead with just under three minutes to play, Fisher made a gutsy call on a fourth-and-3 play from the Rams’ 18 as punter Johnny Hekker hooked up with Cunningham on an 18-yard pass that allowed the Rams to run out the clock.

      Austin put the finishing touch on a 24-0 road victory in Washington on Dec. 7 with a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the third quarter. Earlier, when Washington attempted a fake punt, the Rams’ Chase Reynolds alerted teammates upon hearing something different in the Redskins’ cadence. Trey Watts and Daren Bates teamed up for the stop.

      Bates, a second-year linebacker who hadn’t...
      -01-03-2015, 12:00 PM
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