It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot when discussing NFL field goal and punting units. Yet it remains hard to define and, for some teams, can prove elusive.
After adding kicker Billy Cundiff on Aug. 28, the Redskins field goal kicking operation found its groove last week. Now, though, the unit must start all over again as Justin Snow replaces Sundberg, who broke his arm against the Saints on Sunday.
“Obviously, two out of the three of us are new in just last two or three weeks,” said Snow, who was signed Tuesday. “Billy got a rhythm with Nick and Sav, and now it’s all changing again.”
What shouldn’t be underestimated is the importance of the connection between snapper, holder and kicker. Or, for that matter, snapper and punter.
Against the Saints, the Redskins’ field goal unit had no issues as Cundiff made all four of his attempts and four more PATs in a 40-32 victory at the Superdome.
But on Monday night, an injury to Pro Bowl snapper Jon Condo cost the Raiders a game. Oakland was forced to use to an ill-prepared backup, who rolled two snaps to the punter and botched another. The miscues led directly to a 22-14 loss to the Chargers.
“A lot of times it gets overlooked until a situation like that happens,” Snow said of the importance of long snappers. “Then you end up losing a game. There’s only one of us, and unless you have a great backup, that can happen.”
Rocca said Snow’s snaps on punts shouldn’t be a problem, given Snow’s experience. Field goals? Well, that’s something else entirely because of all of the moving parts.
“It’s timing,” Rocca said. “There is a moment where I look away, then look back at the snapper. Once we get all that timing down, that shouldn’t be a factor. It’s just those couple of days where we iron out all the creases."
Snow “knows. He’s used to it all,” Rocca added before making a joke about getting a new kicker and snapper less than a month: “It keeps things interesting, that’s for sure.”
Of the three, Snow, 35, figures to have the most information to process.
“It’s all the same snap,” he said. “But you have different language, different verbiage. You have to learn what their calls are, what to expect, just figure out that chemistry with the others.”
Then there’s the actual snap.
“How far back does [the holder] need to be to catch 12 o’clock laces?” Snow continued. “The guards on the punt team, figuring out the blocking scheme. It’s all the same, but it’s different as well.”
Snow, who was unceremoniously released by the Colts after 12 seasons in Indianapolis on cutdown day last month, beat out five other snappers to fill the Redskins’ opening. Sundberg was granted the team’s only injured reserve exception and is expected to take back his spot when his arm heals.
“For me, I just know I have to perform,” Snow said about the temporary nature of his job. “That’s all I can control.”
Cundiff said it took about a week to get comfortable with Sundberg’s snaps and Rocca’s teeing up the ball after he arrived in Washington. He expects the same timeframe with Snow entering the equation.
“My mantra since I got here essentially is, ‘Be comfortable being uncomfortable,’” Cundiff said. “So, if you start working backward, it took about four times working together before we really started clicking.”
“This week,” he added, “we’ll probably get two times [in practice], then the game will be the third time. So it will be really close.”
How close? We’ll find out Sunday.