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The Rock Cartwright Special Teams Report

We're going to focus on the punting game this week with Rock, because it's one of the few areas in which the Lions might actually hold an advantage. Their specialists at kicker and punter are very strong, and they rank second in the NFL in punt coverage, while the Redskins rank last in punting. Plus, they rush the punter as aggressively as anyone in the NFL, Rock sez.

One might say that practice makes perfect - the Lions rank second overall in most punts per game. An 0-6 record and a lack of playmakers on offense and defense will cause a team to go for broke on special teams, hence the propensity to go after the other teams' punters.

"They do a great job of covering the field," Cartwright said. "They fly around. [Skins punt returner Antwaan] Randle El watched their punt unit on film and he was like, 'Woo, they get down the field, man.'

"On punt protection they rush every time. They're eight-men up every time rushing, twisting, doing different things. We've definitely got to hone in on what we're doing and get together."

Cartwright, as the personal protector on the punting unit, has heavy responsibility to
this end. He has to make a call on the protection scheme, align blockers, call out for the snap and also act as the last line of defense when opposing teams rush the punt.

"A team like this is more work for me," Cartwright said. "I've got to be on top of my calls and make sure I see everything, make sure I see all the creepers coming up."

Much like defenses move blitzers around before the snap, giving different looks and trying to disguise where the actual pressure will be coming from, so do punt rush units. It's a similar concept, and with Cartwright the defacto QB of the punt team, it's his job to sort through the chaos and discern where the real threat will be.

"A lot of times they'll have two guys out there covering a gunner and they'll creep one in," Cartwright said. "I've got to watch for creepers, and we've all got to be on the same page I might call that it's eight up [at the line], and it might really be six. I've got to get on the same page and work on that big time this week."

By Jason La Canfora  |  October 23, 2008; 5:00 PM ET
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Ha First

Posted by: Tyler84101 | October 23, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I was also thinking along the same lines as wizfan as far bringing someone else in before the bye to give them more of a chance to get up to speed. But, something just occured to me, Horace Gant and Devin Aromashodu are both on the practice squad, which means they practice with the team every week, and already know the offense.

So the question becomes this: which one of those guys does Zorn bring up?

Posted by: craig2 | October 23, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

4th, your absolutely right, Gibbs rebuilt this team almost completely, and Zorn and Cerrato/Snyder are just carrying on what he started.

He did a great job laying the proper foundation of character players with skill and enough talent to get the job done.

In my opinion, he definitely added to his legacy here.

Posted by: craig2 | October 23, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

have the Lions blocked any punts this year?

I've wondered why teams don't skip having a PR and bring that guy to the line and go for more blocks. Have man coverage on the outside guys and rush 9 vs the 8 guys left to block. Obviously a block is the same as a huge return. I've seen a lot of poor snaps go unpunished because of the lack of a rush.

The argument against is that if the guy gets the punt away, it can roll a long way. But I don't think its a big a risk. Pressure makes a guy mess up more often ... shanks and short punts would also be common with a huge rush.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | October 23, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Rock is taking one to the house on Sunday. I can feel it.

Posted by: ThisGuy | October 23, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

zcezcest1 -- Interesting thought, one issue is because of the shape of the ball, it can bounce just about anywhere. Most of the time that guys end up with 70 yard punts it's because of the funny bounce and then a good roll.

But your thought would be a good idea in some situations, punting from midfield in maybe.

Posted by: craig2 | October 23, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Some impressive stats on Portis this season:

Portis is building his production to a climax as games go on this season, averaging 3.3 yards per carry in the first quarter, 4.6 in the second, 6.7 in the third and 5.4 in the fourth. That’s reflected in his attempts as well: He’s averaging 3.6 yards per carry in his first 10 attempts, 6.1 yards per carry in his second 10 attempts, and a spectacular 7.3 yards in carries 21 to 25.

This is from this article:;_ylt=Arj1mYtADHZOwJIgCoS_NG05nYcB?slug=cr-portispeaksagain102308&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

Posted by: craig2 | October 23, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Guys do funny things when there is a lot of pressure. If the punter knows that someone is going to be coming in untouched (and thats what happens when 8 guys try to block 9), he'll do something differently.

If the snapper knows that even slightly off the mark snap will result in a block, he'll feel more pressure.

To me, I'd get our LBs plus Carter and Jason Taylor up on the line. Guys that are tough to block. On the wings, I'd have two fast guys (a chance for Tryon). I'd have 2-3 of those guys moving towards the punter prior to the snap, just trying to get a slightly better jump.

I'd probably be willing to take a roughing the kicker penalty from time to time ... just to play with their minds!!

Posted by: zcezcest1 | October 23, 2008 5:36 PM | Report abuse

craig -- kind of feels like Riggins (if you go back that far) -- getting stronger as the game goes on

Posted by: zcezcest1 | October 23, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

"... One might say that practice makes perfect - the Lions rank second overall in most punts per game. An 0-6 record and a lack of playmakers on offense and defense will cause a team to go for broke on special teams, hence the propensity to go after the other teams' punters. ..."

Same as the Rams.

Posted by: dcsween | October 23, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

zcezcest1 -- It does doesn't it? Ya know, I was reading an interview with Lions coach (might have been Marinelli, I will go try to find it later) where he said something like: "they don't do a lot of different stuff, they just line and pound you, it's very impressive", he had been asked about the Skins' running game.

It sounded a lot like the a time long ago.

Posted by: craig2 | October 23, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Lions beat writer on NFL Network just said the Lions don't have an answer for Moss and "obviously don't have an answer for Clinton Portis, so the Redskins should pretty much be able to do whatever they want, it'll be another long afternoon for the Lions".

Man, I hope so!

Posted by: craig2 | October 23, 2008 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I've always wondered about that... Maybe someone knows how to compare stats...

But if you ALWAYS try to block the punt, wouldn't you do better on average than if you try returning? Scarin' the crap outta tha punter can yeild a better net and always seems to, to me... but then again, I'm not a stats guy...

Posted by: DikShuttle | October 23, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I expect it would be difficult to find stats on what punters do when they are rushed as opposed to when a return is set up.

But it would be interesting to see someone try it. I also have always thought returns are often better when the receiving team shows "block" formation because they go "max protect" and there are no gunners.

Posted by: craig2 | October 23, 2008 6:07 PM | Report abuse

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