Real vs Special

Mike Singletary said last week that he might hold three or four roster spots for core special teams players. For those in the blogosphere who make a yearly habit out of trashing our ST captain Michael Robinson’s worth, they can now mark down next year on their calendars for trashing him again (sorry Unca_Chuck). He’s a lock to make the 53 man roster, suit up every game, and bang heads on every punt and kickoff by us and by the opponent.

That’s a lot of plays, folks, where somebody’s got to block or tackle. Especially by a team that led the league in 3 and out offensive possessions in 2009. Of course, the 49ers will not lead the league in that category this year, but there will still be either a punt or a kickoff following every offensive or defensive series by either team. Just less punting by us, presumably, and more kickoffs.

On average, each team has around 12 possessions per game. Unless there is a fumble or interception, each possession is preceded by a ST play and postceded by one. Ergo dipso flactus, a core special teams player like Robinson will have a vital role in 20+ plays per game. Most of these plays also involve big fat chunks of NFL territory known as yards. Twenty plus on average kickoffs and ten or so on punts. Sometimes these fat chunks are wall-to-wall efforts resulting in game changing, momentum turning LeRoy Vann 5-4-3-2-1 Specials. Serious events that can get you an extra win or two during the course of a season.

For comparison, a WR has a good game if he has 5 or more catches and throws a nice block or two. An RB getting 15 or more “touches” and a couple of key blocks on a blitzer is also credited with a good game. Special Teams guys are like offensive linemen. Nobody pays any attention to them unless they screw up. But without them, you have roadkill for a team.

I confess, it wasn’t until I began doing this site and had to scrounge furiously in the closets and attics of the old noggin bean for topic ideas that I ever paid much attention to special teams play. During the Walsh/Montana years, the glut of scoring tended to obscure the importance of special teams, unless Ray Wersching clanked a FG which cost us a game. Kickoffs and punts were just something to get out of the way without a fumble, so Joe Cool and the boys could march down the field and throw up 6 points.

But now that I have this ST material on my desk and am poking at it like a CSI investigator at a crime scene, I have new found respect. Not enough to know the terminology for each of the eleven players on this squad or what exactly they do except bang around and hope something gives or gets. But I’m getting there. One of the positions is called “gunner”, I think. The military terminology just keeps on coming with the NFL.

At any rate, three or four roster spots?! Does this mean the 49ers will be cutting like a real player to keep a part-timer? Or is Singletary just giving out the message loud and clear to those players without guaranteed roster spots that they had better be busting their dangling appendages on special teams if they want to stick around? The latter choice smacks of “motivational ploy”, a Singletary strong suit, so I’m going with it. We’ll keep all real players, but when it comes to 2nd and 3rd stringers, whose value by definition is less than top notch, “real” will also be sifted and balanced with “foams at the mouth while punt is in the air”.

In fact, these core ST players will have more value than five real players on the roster who do not suit up for a game and are on the roster mostly for way down deep in the basement depth or maybe he’ll be good in two or three years hope (see Cody Wallace, 2 years, career stats, 0 — not even good enough to suit up and play ST). What the blogosphere tends to howl about, however, is a guy we cut, like Thomas Clayton, being a better RB than Robinson, in effect saying a 3rd string RB who wouldn’t suit up is better to keep than a 3rd string RB who will suit up.

This year, for example, you have Scot McKillop and Matt Wilhelm both battling for the same backup inside linebacker spot and neither of them likely to play even one down on defense this year. Last year, they both were on the roster. Then we drafted Navorro Bowman in the 3rd round, so one of these two guys now has to go. Wilhelm is probably, at this time, a better inside linebacker than sophomore player McKillop, but is not as good on special teams. Adios Matt. There’s plenty of work in the NFL for experienced inside linebackers, so have a nice year in Cleveland.

Okay, that’s two of the “3 or 4” core ST guys. Excuse me while I hmmmmmm a little more looking for the mystery 3rd, and possibly fourth guy.

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8 comments on “Real vs Special
  1. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    My preliminary vote goes to LeRoy Vann for one of the 3 or 4 core. 5-4-3-2-1!

  2. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    Normally, I would say he’ll probably be this year’s Kory Sheets. But Singletary is making a splash about fixing the return game, wants more than one guy who can do it, and Vann also plays decent CB, so maybe he’ll make it. You would think it would be him or Kyle Williams for one roster spot, but maybe both will be kept.

  3. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    I see Matt Wilhelm is doing a four day training course on being a broadcaster. Guess he read my post today.

  4. robNo Gravatar says:

    nofear … i’m not so sure about your ” Punter, Kicker, Long Snapper. That’s three S/T slots.”
    conclusion ! to me he seems to be saying 3 or 4 players will make the team based on how well they play on spec. teams as well as their other positions ! people like mrob , vann and the new quick WR/spec teamer whose name escapes me !

  5. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    I was going to rip your arms off, NoFear, but I thought to myself, “No, Skeebie, you’re the host. Let the fellow speak his mind.”
    Sigh. Guess I’ll have to go to another blog and insult somebody. I’m losing my edge.

  6. robNo Gravatar says:

    NOFEAR …
    hmmm , maybe i should have paid closer attention to sing’s comments when i was reading them !!!
    LOL !

    SKEEBS …
    the political chit-chat on the insider was even pretty interesting for a while ! now it’s gotten as bad as the so-called football chat that was going on over there !!!

  7. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    No surprise there, Rob. Any discussion that goes on too long will eventually become repetitive and insulting. Not many people can make their point and move on. The Insider lets the blog degenerate on a regular basis because Lynch doesn’t do his job. Its up to him to provide new topics and he doesn’t do it. Doesn’t even seem to care about it. How he keeps his job is beyond me. I hear he doesn’t get paid, but if you’re going to volunteer to do something, you ought to do it – or let somebody else. There are a lot of talented people who would kill to have a press pass to the 49ers sanctuary.

  8. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    I suppose it’s a case of follow the money. That site has taken on a life of its own and generates blog hits and ad revenue that dwarf the other sites, whether Lynch posts anything or not.
    The Chron’s indifference is in keeping with its blase attitude toward the Niners. Three small outlying newspapers have full time beat reporters and the Chron has none. Weird. The Chron seems to have lost any sense of quality journalism or content.
    I doubt if Lynch’s press pass even allows him in the locker room. He sure never has any “inside” news. His whole career has consisted of interviewing 3rd stringers on their way to the parking lot.

2021 Schedules
09/12: W 49ers 41, Lions 33
09/19: W 49ers 17, Eagles 11
09/26: L Packers 30, 49ers 28
10/03: L Seahawks 28, 49ers 21
10/10: L Cardinals 17, 49ers 10
10/17 BYE
10/24: L Colts 30, 49ers 18
10/31: W 49ers 33, Bears 22
11/07: L Cardinals 31, 49ers 17
11/15: W 49ers 31, Rams 10L
11/21: W 49ers 30, Jaguars 10
11/28: W 49ers 34, Vikings 26
12/05: L Seahawks 30, 49ers 23 12/12 · 10:00 AMCIN
12/19 · 1:05 PM v ATL
12/23 · 5:20 PM v TEN
01/02 · 1:05 PM v HOU
01/09 · 1:25 PM @ LAR

2021 Draft Class
1. QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
2. OG Aaron Banks, Notre Dame
3. RB Trey Sermon, Ohio State
3. CB Ambry Thomas, Michigan
5. OG/OT Jaylon Moore, Western Michigan
5. CB Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon
5. S Talanoa Hufanga, USC
6. RB Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
2021 Prognostications
Bullit: 12-5
Grumpy: 13-4
NJ49er: 11-6
Skeebers: 14-3
Winder: 12-5
Rob: 17-0
Spitblood: 0-17