Bears’ unusual punt formation gives opponents something to study
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter September 27, 2013 10:12PM
Punter Adam Podlesh doesn’t line up as deep and has a quicker release, allowing the Bears’ unit to use a different formation. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Updated: October 29, 2013 6:14AM
The formation is goofy, and the snap is short. The Bears’ punt formation looks unlike any other.
Here’s how and why:
The Bears run an offset punt, meaning the line has three blockers to one side of the snapper and one to the other.
Special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, who was hired this offseason, has used the formation for about five years.
“This is his thing, his baby,” long snapper Patrick Mannelly said.
The formation can be flipped, too, based on where they are on the field.
“Honestly, it’s a little bit easier on the long snapper,” Mannelly said.
And easier on the punter, too.
“We’re a directional [punt] team,” said Eric Weems, who is Adam Podlesh’s personal protector on the unit. “It’s basically so our punter can punt a certain direction and point.
“Instead of catch the ball and turn that way, he’s always offset that way.”
Podlesh stands 11 or 12 yards behind the snapper, about three yards shorter than the average.
Podlesh takes up less space when stepping to punt the ball than most punters.
“I’ve always been a fairly quick, compact-swing guy,” he said. “The amount of yards between when I catch the ball and when I punt the ball, I use up very little ground. If I lined up back at 14 yards, somebody can come off the edge.”
Standing closer allows Podlesh to be protected in a pocket, and he ends up kicking the ball from the same spot as most other punters.
“If you think about, it takes five yards to get the punt off,” DeCamillis said. “And for him it takes two-and-a-half yards to get the ball off.”
It makes for a shorter snap from Mannelly, who has simply adjusted the trajectory a bit. And shorter snaps are always better.
“I got a lot of jealousy from a lot of long snappers around the league,” Mannelly said. “I tell them I deserve it after 16 years.’’
Running an unusual punt formation has at least one major benefit: the opposing team has to spend time all week preparing for it.
“You’re analyzing what their rules are, what their tendencies are,” Podlesh said. “When you change the formation, those things change.”
Mannelly compared the look to the Steelers’ 3-4 defense, which the Bears spent hours studying last week.
“They have to put extra practice time in,” Mannelly said. “Joe’s been around the league for 24, 25 years, and he’s known to have a gadget or two. Just having him around puts other coaches on their toes.
“And that formation. I wouldn’t call it an oddball formation, because it’s our regular formation — but it’s a different scheme.”