The language of football is often confusing: play calls, alignments, techniques, and concepts litter the commentary and writing about the game. Inside the Pylon wants to aid in developing a deeper understanding of the game, so our glossary entries will offer clear explanations and video examples. We hope we can help you enrich your experience watching football.
The long snapper is a member of the punt team and field goal unit tasked with hiking the ball to the punter and holder, respectively. His primary responsibility is to deliver a precise, quick snap to the spot demanded by the specialists. Most punters request the ball waist-high and in line with their kicking leg, while holders on field goals and extra points look for a snap in line with their back shoulder. Once the snap is away, he becomes a blocker at the center of the offensive line. After the punt is away, he is also required to get downfield, and is expected to be one of the first men in coverage against opposing returners.
In typical spread punt formation, the long snapper is aligned in the center of the seven-man offensive line:
NFL punters typically set up 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage, with a perfect snap being in line with their kicking hip:
In the still above, Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan catches a perfect snap during the 2015 Super Bowl.
However, a poor snap can have disastrous consequences for the punt teamIn this case, we see a snap significantly below where New England punter Ryan Allen expects it:
Snap-to-kick times for NFL punters range between 1.8-2.0 seconds. However, the low snap slows Allen’s approach to 2.3 seconds, leading to an easy block for the defense:
On field goals and extra points, the long-snapper has a slightly easier job, with the holder only seven yards behind the line of scrimmage:
Holders typically want the ball in line with their back shoulder, as this allows them to comfortably receive the ball. A snap outside the shoulder risks disrupting the holder’s balance, while one too close to his body results in being handcuffed by the ball. In this case, the snap is just outside the target zone. But just like with the punt unit, a poor snap can result in significant consequences:
Pittsburgh Steelers holder Brad Wing bobbles the low snap, forcing a fire call on the extra point:
Snap-to-kick time on field goals and extra points is roughly 1.2 seconds. A poor snap can add crucial tenths to that time, or disrupt the play entirely. For this reason, great long snappers tend to be a anonymous, as they are typically only mentioned when something goes wrong.
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Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking down matchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.
All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.