Have you seen this screen shot? If you follow me on twitter, you have. This was week 1 vs. Houston Texans. Maybe it's original or maybe I don't watch enough special teams film but I called the the "Kotwica Effect." I didn't think much of it other than "hey, I haven't seen that before. Looks cool." He took Adam Hayward and Trenton Robinson, lined up outside and then have them loop all the way inside as wedge busters. Makes sense since they're two of our best special teams players. I imagine it is a ploy to mix up blocking assignments for the return team without much time to communicate who is blocking who. Now I knew I'd mention this effect again at some point in the season, I just didn't think it'd be negative.....or this soon.
1. Here is our kickoff that was returned for a touchdown. No special effects and nothing fancy. These are regular kickoff team assignments. You get down the field and stay in your lane, then reduce to the ball.
Here is the back view. Now from here, it looks very clear which lane belongs to who. I circled Trent Robinson because it's also easy to see where his lane is, right?
For some reason (to avoid blockers?), Trent Robinson veers sharply off that track and goes left which leaves a huge lane.
Now all this blocker does is block Robinson into Adam Hayward and takes both of our core special teamers out with one block. Meanwhile, there is no one to fill the lane that Robinson vacated.
Brandon Meriweather, who hasn't been in game action in a few weeks, has two holes he can choose to fill. He should stay between them and force the returner to commit to one but over-commits far too much to the outside hole which gives him a terrible tackling angle as the returner goes by and it's clear sailing from there all the way for a touchdown. At this level, you just can't try and go around blockers. I know Robinson knows that. No matter what rules they change this still isn't a finesse game, especially not on special teams.
2. This is the next returnable kickoff in the game. Once again, nothing fancy. Everyone has lane responsibilities, and outside guys have contain. I'm going to assume Trent Robinson was shown print outs/ipad or whatever while he got reamed out on the sideline. Whatever happened, he stays in his lane this time.
Even though there are three blockers ahead of him, Robinson doesn't veer this time. He takes them on like a wedge buster should.
Robinson's willingness to take on the wedge causes a traffic jam and allows all the other special teamers to reduce to the ball and trap the returner with nowhere to go.
3. Unfortunately, the kickoff above did not count because of an off-sides penalty against Brandon Meriweather. This is the re-kick. Once again, identical responsibilities as above.
Once again, everyone stays in their lanes and are already able to reduce to the ball as Robinson again attacks the wedge.
Not only does Robinson take on the wedge, but he's able to get off his block, reach his arm out and make the tackle on the returner. Textbook.
4. "Kotwica Effect." On this kickoff, the Redskins go unbalanced with 4 players on one side and 6 players on the other. Not only that, but he has the three outside guys loop in (like the screenshot against the Texans but with more players) I assume to confuse blocking assignments. Once again, looks cool and innovative but I my only question was, "why aren't the inside guys looping out?" If not looping at least strafing outside. We don't get to see it in action as this kickoff is a touchback.
5. It didn't take long to see it in action as they ran the same thing later. 4/6 unbalanced. Three outside guys looping inside to clog middle.
This re-ignites my previous worry when I first saw it. Why are the inside guys running straight and not flexing out? There are too many guys in one area. How do you have 6 guys in 2 lanes?
The moment Chris Polk catches this kick, the Redskins have basically walled themselves out of the play. The only man left on the right is the contain man, Aldrick Robinson.
Bashaud Breeland is able to leak through but he's washed to the outside by one of the wedge players and the other one freely runs up to block the contain man.
Aldrick Robinson doesn't keep his outside shoulder free to force the returner back inside so Polk has free run to the sideline and picks up a large return.
I like Kotwica's attitude. I like how passionate he is about special teams but why are they not improving? When I went to training camp, I saw them practice it first every single day. Is this a flaw in the methods or the execution? We don't have the luxury to be wasting good offensive and/or defensive efforts on special teams gaffes.