The Field Goal unit has been an issue all season. In Part 1 of my 3 ways solution of fixing the Special Teams unit, we will look at Field Goal mishaps.
The Chiefs have recently experienced major issues with the special teams unit. These issues shouldn’t define the unit, but the issue in 2022 has seemingly gotten worse this year.
In 10 seasons under special teams coordinator Dave Toub, the Chiefs special teams units have led the league is several categories including kickoff return average, punt return average including touchdowns. Since 2017 under Toub, Harrison Butker has the 3rd highest FG percentage in NFL History (88.6).
Unfortunately, Toub hasn’t been quite the special teams expert the team knows him to be and his units have actually gotten worse in 2022. Rather muffed punts, missed field goals, bad holds, fake punts, and unprepared on-side kicks, these issues could haunt the Chiefs in January in the playoffs.
The Chiefs know it’s an issue and are desperately working to solve it. Let us be of some help and suggest three solutions before a mishap costs the Chiefs in a big way.
Solution #1 is James Winchester and Tommy Townsend work on the Snap to Kick timing and positioning on Field Goal attempts:
I am not saying it’s Chiefs punter Tommy Townsend’s fault for Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker’s failure to make those field goals. Tommy is a great athlete especially at the punter position. He has done a phenomenal job at not only punting but also holding the ball so Butker can make his kicks. However, there has been an issue with the field goal unit this whole season and it has to do with inconsistency between the snap to the hold. If you look at the Week 15 game at the Texans on that missed field goal by Butker, you can clearly see the difference between that kick and the 62 yarder he made earlier in this season in Week 6 against the Bills.
Tommy’s positioning between Chiefs long snapper James Winchester when he receives the snap should be between his (Winchester’s) right side of his butt like he was in Week 6 where he received a very good snap and Butker had room to make the record setting kick. In Week 15 on the missed kick, you can clearly see Tommy all in the way (positioned right up on Winchester’s butt) where Butker didn’t have the room for his powerful leg to make the potential game-winning kick.
This leads me to the first solution of one of our Special Teams issues regarding Field Goal is by going back to the simple fundamentals, Practice. It starts between Winchester and Townsend coming together after this Raiders on Saturday regardless of what happens with the playoff formation after Week 18 where they should practice the Snap-to-kick time on field goals and extra points.
Townsend could work more on looking at the film at all of the successful kicks like the 58 yard game winner against the Chargers in Week 2 of the 2020 season and the 62 yard one and just look at how he’s positioned in receiving the snap. He is clearly his right side is in position to Winchester’s right side (butt) where it gives him and Butker the space to work.
As stated on Inside the Pylon on the Glossary part about Long Snappers; Holders typically want the ball in line with their back shoulder, as this allows them to comfortably receive the ball. A snap outside the shoulder risks disrupting the holder’s balance, while one too close to his body results in being handcuffed by the ball. Winchester has done a really good job despite last week’s mishap on that extra point that was a disaster against the Broncos last week. The Snap-to-kick time on field goals and extra points should be roughly under 1.0 second.
A poor snap can add crucial tenths to that time, or disrupt the play entirely. For this reason, great long snappers tend to be a anonymous, as they are typically only mentioned when something goes wrong. I used to be a Long Snapper back in Washington High School in Kansas City, KS. I feel if they practice on the snap to kick timing and Townsend’s positioning on the hold where he catches it inside his shoulder and just trust their abilities in what they do, everything will be fine.
Blocking on the FG unit must be on point too:
The Blocking from the Field Goal unit must do better. Last week before the end of the first half, Mahomes and the offense set Butker and his unit up for a 51-yard field goal attempt where Townsend was position where he needed to be and Butker had room. One problem, Andrew Wylie who is the Left tackle alignment on the Field Goal unit got knocked over which also affected Trey Smith (in the left guard role) from doing his job and led to the Broncos defender to block the field goal. The Blocking must be better. It’s as simple as that.
Wylie can’t allow his man to attack his gap. He must block him as hard as possible because that guy who blocked Butker’s kick would’ve either made Travis Kelce block him but he went for the ball. He can’t allow his man to play far off on him like that next time. The two men on Kelce, Wylie and Smith’s side will come hard on that side and they must attack them hard like they’re going to attack our gap areas on the field goal attempt.
On the season, the Chiefs’ 74.1 percent field goal percentage is the worst in the NFL. However, the Chiefs have allowed the NFL’s 4th-fewest 19.2 yards per return on kickoffs. That shows that in those games Butker isn’t the problem. If it was like 25.3 yards per return, then we would have a major problem. This proves that the Chiefs don’t have to find stability at kicker during the offseason. They just need Dave Toub, Harrison Butker, Tommy Townsend and James Winchester to come together during the bye week and work on those simple fundamentals consistently before the playoffs and during warm ups before the games.
Kickers are routinely treated as afterthoughts by casual observers, but coaches certainly appreciate a scorer capable of putting points on the board from long distance. Kickers adept at knocking the ball through the uprights from 50-plus yards expand the scoring zone for the offense, providing the coordinator with more play-calling options.
Since joining the NFL in 2017, Butker’s 88.1 field goal percentage is tied 3rd in NFL history. If it was 2015, Butker would be considered the best kicker in the NFL over Justin Tucker, Stephen Gostkowski, Steven “Hausch-money” Hauschka and Mike Vanderjagt at that time in that category. It’s an honor to have a member of our team to be on that list among those great players at the kicking position.
I would like to see Townsend and WInchester continue to work with Butker within the timing and the positioning on the kicks and Toub should work on the blocking techniques with his unit who blocks up front and everything else will work itself out. I feel this should help and in my next article on Part 2, I will go over the Kickoff return unit and find ways on scoring more points or at least consistently get in great field position for Mahomes and the offense to do their magic.