Punt Return “Hip By” Technique
When coaching your punt return team you will always be better off if you teach your blockers to get most of their work done at the line of scrimmage. It is far easier to hold a punt coverage man up at the line of scrimmage where you can get your hands on him in tight quarters and use your feet to outwork and stay in front of him than it is to handle him out in space as he heads down the field in coverage.
However, it does not always work out this way. There will always be times when the punt coverage player wins at the line of scrimmage and punt return player finds himself in a “chase” mode. If you watch college and NFL football closely each weekend you will see this repeatedly. Some NFL players do an excellent job of making the best of a tough situation by using what is referred to as a “Hip By” technique.
Here are a few things you can teach your punt return unit when they find themselves in this situation.
Run Full Speed
You are already in a bad situation and the only way you are going to recover is to run. Remember that a lot of coverage guys will slow down as they try to diagnose what is happening with the return or just so they can come under control as they get closer to the returner. This is your chance to make up ground.
Run Directly At Your Returner
Geometry is not on your side at this moment so you have to do everything you can to regain what you have lost. Obviously if the blocker runs right behind the cover guy he will never regain the needed leverage to make the block. By running directly at the near shoulder of your returner you are running the shortest distance between two points. Those two points are where you are now and the last possible point to make a legal block.
Be Prepared To Adjust
Your returner is tracking the ball in the air and that is the hardest job on the field when everyone is breathing down his neck. The last thing he needs is to have one of his own men buzzing him or running into him as he attempts to catch the ball. Be aware of the conditions like wind that could force him to adjust late and give him room to do so. As the returner catches the ball this block will be made just as the cover man thinks he is about to make the tackle so space awareness is crucial.
Know When To Cut Your Losses
Sometimes the ground lost at the line of scrimmage and on the way down the field can’t be made up. The last thing that the return team needs is a penalty for blocking in the back. There are times when the blocker needs to just peel off and find someone else to block. Someone else on your team may get that block or it can be a fair catch situation where you live to fight that battle another day.
Make The Block With Your Presence
As the blocker makes the ground up and gets himself in a position to make the “Hip By” block it is exactly that. The blocker wants to just get his hip and body between the cover man and the returner, nothing more. This block is going to be tough as it is and if the blocker tries to use his hands it will be impossible. In fact, most coaches will teach the blocker to throw his hands up as he makes this block to show the referee that there is no illegal contact being made.
The “Hip By” technique is no different than any other technique, meaning that it can and should be practiced if you expect it to be used effectively. We all know that if we can get our returner started on a punt return the chances of good things happening increase exponentially. This technique can be the difference in springing your guy for a huge return as opposed to being tackled at the spot of the catch.