ITP Glossary: Spread Punt Formation

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From scramble drill to press man technique, commentators and writers rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary takes you inside part of the game you may be missing.

Spread Punt Formation

Spread punt formation is the default for nearly every NFL team. While the word “spread” conjures images of eleven players stretched along the line of scrimmage, spread punt formation instead utilizes a standard line of five tightly bunched linemen, two tight ends covering the tackles, and two punt gunners 8-10 yards outside. This alignment also includes a “personal protector” stationed five yards behind the line of scrimmage and in line with one of the guards, as well as a punter with his heels 14 or 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

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The standard spread punt formation looks like this:

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Spread punt formation typically uses an inside-out blocking scheme in order to take away the shortest path between defenders and the punter – the route directly through the middle. The personal protector is able to slide to one side or the other depending on how the defenders align, but the principles remain the same. The Carolina Panthers show how such a scheme would work:

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Another example from the same game shows similar responsibilities despite a different alignment from the defense:

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An important factor to remember on punt protection is that many of the “linemen” are in fact tight ends or linebackers, with coverage responsibilities after the kick. Their goal is to block and release downfield in pursuit of the punt returner. Therefore, they are not engaging in the same type of blocking as linemen.

Most NFL teams employ zone blocking schemes in order to simplify the transition to the line for these players. However, zone schemes can be vulnerable to overloads, as well as twists and stunts from rushers. In the example below, there is a clear breakdown as the Minnesota Vikings twist two players into the same gap:

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Two Panthers block the same rusher, leading to an open route to the punter:

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Panthers punter Brad Nortman had no chance on this punt, or on the day.

The ITP Glossary is curated by Mark Brown. The incomparable Chuck Zodda contributed to this entry.

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Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking downmatchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.

All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.

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