ITP Glossary: Directional Punting

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From 4 technique to pivot route, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

Directional Punting

Directional punting is a strategy employed by both college and NFL teams to reduce the number of available lanes for a returner. Generally directional punting is a strategy that minimizes returns. Instead of maximizing distance, directional punting seeks to pin a returner near the boundary, closing off one side. This allows the coverage unit to aggressively work at sealing off half the field. Directional punting can be susceptible to properly-executed wall returns if predictable with the direction of kicks.

The key principle behind directional punting is using the sideline as an extra defender, effectively reducing the amount of space a coverage unit must blanket. Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch is among the best in the game at directional punting. While strong to both sides of the field, his left-side targeting is unparalleled.

Facing the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014, Koch booms a punt that pins dangerous returner Antonio Brown inside the 20-yard line and outside the left numbers:BalLeft1

Brown catches the ball five yards from the sideline. Meanwhile, the Ravens coverage team does an outstanding job of flocking to the ball, trusting Koch to put Brown exactly where they are aimed.

Later in the same game, Koch hits nearly the exact same spot:BalLeft2

While these may appear to be the same kick, Koch in fact has such good ball control that he is able to place the ball with uncanny accuracy.

Directional punting can be countered by wall returns to the opposite side if a team shows an inability to strike to both sides of the field. As the coverage team narrows down, it leaves the return team an opportunity to sneak blockers backside and, if the returner can make the first man miss, get an alley to the open side of the field.

Koch, however, shows an ability to strike to the right side of the field as well, placing this punt 49 yards downfield in the hands of teammate, and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (#9) on the right sideline as it flies out of bounds:RavensPunt2

This is the type of directional game required for the top punters in the NFL. They must have the ability to kick to both sides of the field in varied conditions, because doing so can take a strong returner and neutralize his impact on the game.

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Chuck Zodda wrote this entryFollow Chuck on Twitter @ITP_ChuckZ.

All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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