ITP Glossary: Punt Gunner

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From climbing the pocket to double A gap blitz, 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.

Punt gunners are the members of a punt unit that align on the edges of the formation, usually on or outside the numbers. Normally, they are not involved in blocking for the punter, but rather are tasked with getting downfield as quickly as possible and tackling or re-routing the returner. The ideal punt gunner possesses quickness, top-end speed, physicality, the ability to defeat a jam at the line, and spatial awareness to make plays once he finally gets downfield. Gunners are often pulled from the bottom of the wide receiver or cornerback groups, providing value to their team through special teams play in addition to sub package duties on offense or defense.

Punt gunners are the first-strike weapons of a punt unit. Most NFL teams employ the spread punt formation, with a seven man “line” and gunners split out 8-10 yards from the rest of the formation on both sides. In this matchup of the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, the Bills right gunner, Marcus Easley (#81), is lined up to the right of the spread formation and plays a key role:

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Easley looks for an inside release with the ball positioned at the left hash and expected to go to the left side of the field. He takes a quick step in and looks to engage with the Dolphins player across the line of scrimmage:

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His blocker mirrors the move, with the two locked in battle for the first several yards. Easley delivers a strong punch to the chest to free himself from the blocker. At five yards downfield, Easley is beginning to turn the corner:

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Having beaten his man, Easley now has a straight path to the left side of the field, and ends up making the tackle on the opposite sideline from where he started, 35 yards downfield:

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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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