Welcome back to our series on learning football! We are well on our way to understanding player positions for all squads. Now that you have a basic understanding of the offense and the defense, we continue our exploration by diving deeper into the types of player positions on special teams. By learning about these key players of the game, you’ll be able to take your understanding of football to the next level.
Special teams are units that are on the field during kicking plays. Players who appear on offensive or defensive squads also play similar roles on special teams. For example, offensive linemen are needed to block and defensive players needed to tackle. There are, however, some specialist roles that are unique to the kicking game.
Kicking specialists are responsible to kick the football. Depending on the type of specialist and the play that was called, the responsibilities of these positions vary.
Kicker: Also called a “placekicker”, kickers handle kickoffs, extra points, and field goals. All three situations require the kicker to kick the ball off the ground, either from the hands of a holder or off of a tee.
Punter: The punter lines up 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. That distance can be shortened to avoid being on or behind the end line. After receiving the snap, the punter drops the football and kicks, or “punts,” it from the air in order to send the ball to the defensive team, as far downfield as possible. This is usually done only on fourth down.
Other special teams’ positions include:
Holder: The holder is usually positioned 7–8 yards from the line of scrimmage and holds the ball for the placekicker to kick. A holder is occasionally used on kickoffs if the weather or field conditions repeatedly cause the ball to fall off the tee.
Kick returner and punt returner: Returners are responsible for catching kicked balls (either on kickoffs or punts) and running the ball back. These are usually among the fastest players on a team and typically play either wide receiver or cornerback, as well.
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