The Philadelphia Eagles traded long-snapper Jon Dorenbos on Monday to the New Orleans Saints for a seventh-round pick in 2019.
My first reaction was why would you try to fix something that wasn’t broken? And only a week and a half before your opening game in the regular season?
Howie Roseman, what are you thinking?
Is Howie playing Fantasy Football with human beings again, as Asante Samuel once alleged?
Well, the answer may be in the salary cap numbers.
By trading the beloved and reliable Philly hero, Howie saved the Eagles $1,087,000 in cap hit money…
However, that is a million dollars worth of nothing to a fan base who loves the cat Howie just burned up…
It probably makes sense from an accounting perspective. Gosh, just how much money is too much to pay for a long-snapper?
The long-snapper is a very specific position on a roster. He is considered a member of the special teams unit, because like a kicker or punter, he only plays on certain units at specific moments of the game. A good long-snapper is basically automatic at delivering the snap quickly and accurately to the holder or punter, and effective at blocking after the snap to keep the defense from running up the middle and blocking the kick. Usually, the long-snapper is an extra offensive lineman on the depth chart.
You may be shocked to learn this, but there is an actual website devoted to the long-snapper profession: https://longsnap.com/
Yeah, ya heard it here first!
Here is their take on the Eagles’ dumping of Dorenbos:
“Today was an incredibly eventful day for snappers, which led to my Crazy Day for Snappers post this afternoon. I debated waiting before posting it, assuming that there could not possibly be any more snapping news.
“I was wrong. Tonight, the SECOND snapping trade of the day occurred when the Eagles sent veteran Jon Dorenbos to the Saints. The deal gives Rick Lovato the job in Philadelphia and Dorenbos will likely solve the Saints snapping issues.
“Prior to today, the only snapper trade I am aware of is when the Packers sent JJ Jansen to the Panthers back in 2009.”
“It started yesterday when Bears snapper and client Patrick Scales was injured against the Titans. With Scales out, the Bears worked out Jeff Overbaugh and client Jimmy Landes today and ultimtaely signed Overbaugh.
“In another move today, the Colts traded rookie long snapper Thomas Hennessy to the Jets. The Colts plan to have Luke Rhodes snap and play linebacker and had the luxury to move Hennessy. It is unclear how this move impacts current Jets snapper Tanner Purdum.
“There were two additional snapping moves today, as the Packers waived client Derek Hart and the Ravens added Taybor Pepper. Client Brett Goode will snap for the Packers, while it is believed that Pepper will help relieve Ravens snapper Morgan Cox in the final pre-season game on Thursday.”
So you see, to be fair to Howie, long-snapper personnel moves are not that uncommon!
Tehe… What does it take to be a good long-snapper?
More than anything, it’s a lot of practice. Here is a blueprint to success as a young long-snapper, courtesy of the Youth Football Coaches Association. (For more tips on a variety of positions, make sure to visit YFBCA.org.)
- Individual drills with a partner – this should be a daily routine prior to actual snapping practice.
- Snapping drills repetitive snapping to a holder, punter or stationary target.
It’s important to be thoroughly loose before snapping. Key muscle areas are the groin, hamstrings, arms, lower back, shoulders and wrists. Finish stretching with the clock stretch.
Clock Stretch: This stretch starts with the snapper spreading his feet as wide as possible andwith his back flat, knees slightly bent, arms extended out in front of the body and the hands together. Start at twelve o’clock and go clockwise, then repeat counter clockwise. Touch both hands at each number of the clock during the rotation.
Step 1: Stance – The most important aspect of long snapping is a comfortable stance. He must point his toes straight ahead with feet parallel and his weight equally distributed on the big toes and heels. The distance between the snapper’s feet should be no wider than his shoulders. It is important to have a solid base, which allows him to lower his body to the ground. This creates a solid foundation to operate from.
The snapper’s back should be flat with knees bent, forming a “Z” in the knees. Weight should be equally distributed between the insteps of the feet, ankles, knees and hips.
Next, the snapper should lay his stomach on the thighs for support. The goal is to have complete movement of arms through the lower body, without losing balance or control.
Step 2: Hand Placement- The snapper should extend both arms directly in front of his shoulders and place them on the football. The bottom tip of the ball should be aligned directly under his chin. The snapper should place his dominant hand (power hand) on the laces of the ball, similar to how a QB grips the football.
The off hand is the “guide hand” and is placed on the middle of the ball opposite the power hand. The middle finger should be aligned parallel to the seam of the ball, pressing the palm into the ball and forcing it into the power hand. The snapper rolls and cocks the power hand, forming a slight bend in the wrist, turning the laces of the ball toward the ground.
Power Hand Placement
- Place the first knuckle of the index finger across the seam of the ball
- Place the middle finger and ring knuckles between the 2nd and 3rd laces of the ball, keeping them close together
- Place the little finger across the bottom seam of the ball
- Place the thumb around the ball, forming a natural “V” with the index finger and thumb.
Guide Hand Placement
- Place the middle finger down the seam of the ball. The height of the middle finger on the seam helps determine elevation of the flight of the ball.
- Place the index and ring finger on the ball, keeping them close to the middle finger.
- Line up thumb and little finger straight across from each other for balance and straight release.
- At the start of the snapping action, press the palm of the hand into the ball. This does three things:
- Forces the ball into the power hand
- Assists in the cocking action of the power hand
- Puts pressure on the ball for a tight spiral
Step 3: Arm Position- As the snapper grips the ball, he should favor the right leg with the ball if he’s right handed and the left if he’s left handed. He rolls and cocks the ball a half turn pointing the knuckles and laces of the power hand and ball into the ground while keeping the ball flat on the ground, with the nose slightly tilted up.
The guide-hand arm must be straight (elbow not bent). The arm of the power hand will be extended out in front of the body as far as possible with a slight bend in the elbow. It’s important not to put a lot of weight on the football.
When ready to deliver the snap, the snapper pushes the palm of the guide hand into the ball, forcing the ball into the power hand. Now’s he ready to fire a snap!
Step 4: Snapping Motion– The snap is made with arms, wrists and hands moving in a continuous motion. As the snap is made, both the snapper’s hands and arms follow through directly at the target, with both hands snapping through the legs as far as possible. Do not let the arms and hands spread after the snap. Snapping is strictly all arms and wrists. After the follow through, the snapper should get his head up, set back off the LOS and “get big” to protect his area, then hustle to his coverage assignment.
More Long Snapping Tips
- Approach the ball separately each time the snapper snaps in practice situations. Make sure he always resets his feet.
- Make sure the long snapper varies the rhythm he uses when snapping the ball so that opponents can’t zero in on his snapping motion and rhythm.
- The long snapper must throw strikes. The landmark is inside the punters kicking hip.
- Never aim the ball on snaps. Snap every time with good technique, speed, accuracy and follow through.
- The long snapper should strive to get the ball back in 0.70 to 0.75 seconds. The risk of getting a punt blocked increases every 0.05 seconds.
- During a long-snapper’s routine, he must set his feet and emphasize spring in the knees with his weight centered on the insteps. He must look at the target before placing his hands on the ball.
- The snapper must approach the ball with everything in line at high noon with his body and the ball. He must have the correct grip, with the wrist cocked and back flat. He should pre-cock his hips on the pre-snap and eliminate any hitches.
- The long snap is all arms, hips, concentration and focus.
Okay, forgive my crazy way of grieving the departure of Jon Dorenbos. I know it’s a time for appreciation of the guy’s craft— but the reality is it’s not that big a deal physically to replace him.
In fact, the Eagles had been carrying two long-snappers through training camp — Dorenbos and Rick Lovato, a second-year player out of Old Dominion. Lovato will take over the role that Dorenbos grabbed in ’06 and held on to for more than a decade. Lovato will also be paid a lot less money.
The hope for the Eagles is that Rick Lovato, who played three games at the end of 2016 when Dorenbos went on Injured Reserve, can slide in and the special teams unit won’t miss a beat. Lovato snapped in games against Baltimore, New York, and Dallas and the Eagles clearly saw the ability he brought to the table, and at the same time asked him to improve in his protection game.
So you can see at one level the move to dump Dorenbos by Howie Roseman was “logical”— but the timing is awful, given the charismatic gravitas that Dorenbos has built up within the Eagles fan community.
Dorenbos was the longest-tenured player on the roster. He grew into a local icon over the past 11 years and became a national star as his childhood-inspired magic act got him to the finals of “America’s Got Talent.” Not to mention, his tragic back-story as a childhood survivor of extreme domestic violence would make even the biggest fan of money ball tactics shed a tear.
Welp, there you have it— we ship away the Magic Man, we replace him with Rick Lovato at a lower cap number. Time marches on. No time for weeping. Philly fans are in a minor uproar over this move—until they get a chance to simmer down and figure out the logic. Besides, Dorenbos is still in a very good place. New Orleans really wants him—and their fans will get to love him like we did.