April, Rocca and directional punting

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Eagles special teams coach Bobby April, pictured here with the Bills, talked about Sav Rocca and directional punting earlier this week. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

During our in-game chats over the last two years, the same question is brought up every time the Eagles face a dangerous punt returner.

Why don't they just kick the ball out of bounds?!

I always try to explain that it's not that simple, but new Eagles special teams coach Bobby April offered a better explanation when I asked him a question about directional punting during Tuesday's media event at the Novacare Complex.

April demonstrated that for a punter to boot the ball out of bounds, he has to move in the direction where he wants the ball to go. Special teams protection is generally set up for the punter to have a pocket, much like a quarterback. When a punter wants to aim for the sidelines, he has to take several steps in that direction, meaning either protection has to shift or he risks having the punt blocked.

April said that kind of movement could be something Sav Rocca does a little bit more, given his Australian Rules Football background, but his explanation for why it's not done more league-wide made sense. April said if he were confident in a punter to kick the ball out of bounds, he would ask him to do it every time since it eliminates the possibility of any kind of return.

Another interesting nugget from the lively special teams coach, who slipped into imitations of Bill Cowher and Chan Gailey without thinking twice, was his take on calling for a trick play. In my mind, I always pictured special teams coaches constantly trying to convince head coaches to run fake punts, fake field goals, onside kicks, etc.

But April presented a different side of the equation. As the special teams coach, it's his job to speak up if he sees an opportunity for a trick play. Often times, those things are decided during the week, as early as Tuesday (although the situation in the game obviously has to be right).

When the head coach decides to go for it, it's a heightened level of nervousness for April, not excitement. If the trick play goes wrong, it's what everyone's talking about after the game - fans, reporters, even his peers and players.

In other words, they are high-risk calls that occasionally provide a big-time reward.


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