Special Teams are often overlooked for some reason, but the lesser known third unit can provide plenty of excitement, especially when a return is taken all the way for a Touchdown.Most teams ST’s are made up of rookies and backups, but there are specialists who perform specific jobs. This is where our focus lies.
The Denver Broncos will play in San Diego on Monday Night against the Chargers and the Special Teams Units could play a huge factor in the outcome of the game. Since it is always good to know thy enemy or foe, I will help to acquaint you with the Chargers specialists.
For the last three years, the Chargers have needed two kickers. Nate Kaeding is 7/7 on Field Goal Attempts with a long of 45 and 6/6 on Extra Point Attempts, but he is injured. Again. He only played in one game last season because of a torn ACL. It seems like every time San Diego and Denver play one another, that Nate has a groin injury. Said to be the most accurate kicker in NFL History, Kaeding has delivered in the clutch, even though his length has fallen off due to the hampering groin. Note to AJ, perhaps it’s time to move into the 21st century and get a new Kicker.
The guy who will face the Broncos on Monday Night is Nick Novak, who replaced Kaeding two weeks ago in Kansas City. Novak is 4/5 (80%) with a long of 47 this season and 7/7 on Extra Points. He has kicked off 13 times with 6 going for touchbacks and 6 returned an average of 26.3 yards.
10 year veteran Mike Scifres is the Punter and Holder for the Chargers. He has been with San Diego for his entire career and is very good. The AFC West might be able to boast the best Kicker/punter tandems in the league. Scifres has increased his gross and Net averages over the past three seasons and so far this season, he is continuing that trend. Mike has punted 20 times in the first five weeks. His gross average is 50.9 yards (3rd) with a Net of 42.9 (T-5th). Eleven of those punts have been returned for a 10.9 yard average. Scifres has 2 touchbacks, caused 7 Fair Catches and dropped 6 Inside the 20 yard line.
Long Snapping specialist Mike Windt (6-1, 252) is a three-year long snapper in his third year with the Chargers. He has 3 Special Teams Tackles this season and 6 career stops.
Bronco fans are familiar with Punt Returner/Wide Receiver Eddie Royal, who spent the last 4 seasons in Orange. We know he is a good return man, so I don’t need to explain that he can take it to the house. The problem here, is that Royal has a sore Hamstring. Not that it would surprise anyone, but it has affected his numbers this season. Eddie has returned 7 Punts this year for a 5.4 average and a long of 14 yards. That sounds alot like Denver’s recent punt return output with Jim Leonhard.
The primary Kick Returner for the Chargers is Wideout Richard Goodman. He has returned 13 kickoffs for an average of 27.8, good for 15th in the league. Goodman ranks sixth among all Kick Returners with at least 9 opportunities and his longest on the young season is a 38 yarder.
Safety Darrell Stuckey is the Chargers leading Tackler on Special Teams with 4 stops. Rookie Linebacker Melvin Ingram (3 TKL) is another key guy. Long Snapper Mike Windt has 3 Tackles with 1 miss, Richard Goodman (3 TKLs), Tight End Dante Rosario (2 TKLs) and Corey Lynch (2 TKLs,1 Miss) round out the leaders. Rosario is their best Punt coverage player.
Pro Football Focus ranks the Chargers Special Teams at 11th overall and the Broncos 1st. The numbers say that the Broncos have the statistical edge by 1.5 yards in nearly all categories. The lone exception being Kick Returns, where Richard Goodman has the upper hand. The difference this week could be newly acquired Trindon Holliday, who was picked up off the waiver wire on Thursday. The field position battle may come down to how well Goodman and Holliday perform.
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