As our new special teams coach we signed Joe DeCamillis, who formerly was a special teams assistant coach here. The Broncos were statistically average or below average on most special teams units last season and have been that way for quite some time. Let's look at the track record of our new special teams coach to see if he has a history of getting units to continually improve.
Joe DeCamillis has spent has entire coaching career as an NFL special teams coach. He began his NFL coaching career in Denver in 1988 and, like most of the coaching staff, has now come home to Denver. He has a reputation for being able to significantly improve special teams coverage units. So let's start off by seeing what happened when Decamillis came on board during his other stops. I'm going to focus on five stats - three defensive and two offensive
- Net punt average
- Average punt return allowed (a big factor in #1)
- Average KO return allowed
- Average punt return
- Average KO return
1987 was a strike season so the numbers are not very valid. Keep in mind that there were only 28 teams in 88 and 93. There were 30 teams in 97 and 98.
Comparing Special Teams Rank Year Prior and DeCamillis' First Season with New Team
|Net Punt||PR Allowed||KOR allowed||Punt Ret.||KO Ret.|
Almost all of the defensive stats improved in Joe's first season with his new team. The exceptions are his first year with the Giants where they got significantly worse on kickoff coverage and the 13 Bears where they got significantly worse in net punting. Generally his return teams improved relative to the year prior as well. The most dramatic improvement of a unit with the arrival of Decamillis would have to be the 93 Giants who improved from dead last in net punt average to #2 in the league (switching punters mid-way through the season from Landeta to Horan was a big part of this). Remember there were only 28 NFL teams in 1993.
In his first season on the offensive side of things, he generally gets dramatic improvement in the punt return game (Giants, Jags, Cowboys and Bears) while his teams are just as likely to get worse on kickoff returns as they are to get better. I'll note that in Chicago the Bears had Devin Hester returning punts in 2012 (when they sucked at it) and in 2013 (when they were #2 in the league). They key difference is the coaching there - presumably Decamillis found some guys who could block for Hester or he taught guys how to block the opposing gunners which is key for successful punt returns. (Please don't use Andre - I can't beat one blocker - Caldwell as a gunner!!).
Looking at how his units have ranked every year during his recent career (starting with the 98 Falcons) we have the table below - I have included the Broncos team ranking for that special teams stat during that year as well. These are focused on the "defensive" special teams (punting/punt coverage and kickoff coverage). I have also included average opponent drive start ranking.
|Net yards per punt||Ave Punt Ret Allowed||AVE KO Ret. Allowed||AVE Opp. Drive Start|
|DeCamillis' Team||Year||DeCamillis' Team||DEN||DeCamillis' Team||DEN||DeCamillis' Team||DEN||DeCamillis' Team||DEN|
The key takeaway from the table above is that his coverage units have been top 3rd of the league in most of his years in the NFL, but his punt coverage teams have not fared as well during his last decade as the did during his first decade. The other takeaway from this table is that Denver's defensive special teams have been worse than the units coached by DeCamillis in almost every year (and that our coverage units have sucked for quite some time). Since 1998 the Broncos punt and kickoff coverage units have on average been in the bottom 3rd of the league. Those who are hoping for big improvements next season should be happy about the 1's and 2's that show up in the table above (only two of those - two 2's - show up in the Bronco's column).
Focusing solely on the Broncos punt coverage we find an interesting tidbit - in 2012 we were second in the league in average punt return allowed - only giving up 6.0 yards per return. In every other year since 2007 we have been near the bottom of the league. The punt team coached by DeCamillis has been better than Denver's punt coverage team every year since 2007 with the exception of that one fluky year in 2012.
If we focus on what he did last year in Chicago, his coverage units were both better than the Broncos corresponding units, but the Bears were second to last in 2014 in opponent average drive start position (largely a result of the Bears offense turning the ball over 29 times - 26th in the league). I'm actually expecting all of our special teams units to improve next season, but I think that the greatest improvement will be in our kickoff coverage. Looking at how Decamillis' kickoff coverage units have fared, this stands to reason. With the exception of 2010, Decamillis kickoff coverage units have been in the top 10 in the league since 2003. The is plenty of room for improvement in all of our special teams rankings.