Among the notable coaching changes the Los Angeles Rams made this offseason was the hiring of special teams coordinator John Bonamego.
Although it was a disappointing 2019 NFL season overall, Los Angeles still boasts one of the more talented special teams groups in the league with punter Johnny Hekker, kicker Greg Zuerlein, and long snapper Jake McQuaide. While the departure of former special teams coordinator John Fassel leaves a notable void, this unit remains as tight-knit as they get ready for the 2020 NFL season.
Bonamego will certainly have some big shoes to fill with all the success they enjoyed under Fassel’s tutelage. Fortunately, it appears he will be putting an emphasis on building the same type of chemistry.
Bonamego is looking to maintain the rapport that this group has built over the years, via Stu Jackson of the team’s official website:
“Those guys are like any other position. They want to be coached, they want to get better,” Bonamego said. “It’s really working with them and establishing a rapport, a routine, learning what they can do and what they do well. Like any other player, try to keep them out of the situations that are asking them to do things that they don’t do well. The No. 1 takeaway there is communication.”
Bonamego also discussed the importance of ensuring this group can stay healthy throughout the course of a long season and what will go into that:
“Those guys are like baseball pitchers, you always have to be cognizant of that,” Bonamego said. “A baseball guy throws, he’s off a couple days because you have to give him time to recover. Punting a football, kicking off a football, that’s a very violent, explosive act. You just gotta always know where they’re at physically, and how they’re feeling, because it’s a long season and you want them there. You want them available and you want feeling good on Sunday when it counts.”
The Rams may have ushered in a bit of a youth movement with head coach Sean McVay’s staff, however, Bonamego brings a much-needed dynamic in terms of experience like Fassel did. The 17-year coaching veteran is coming off a successful second stint with the Detroit Lions after he was voted on as the NFC North special teams coach of the year in a poll by The Athletic.
Bonamengo’s punting unit finished as the second-best group in the league last year after allowing just 4.5 yards per return and zero touchdowns. This should help pay huge dividends for Hekker after missing out on All-Pro honors for the first time in six seasons.
Meanwhile, health was certainly an issue for Zuerlein during the 2019 campaign and his struggles have only raised further speculation about his future in free agency.