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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Oh SNAP!! Asa Jackson's Legal Head Start

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In Sunday's win vs. San Diego, a crucial moment came just before the half when the Chargers scored and then had the extra point blocked by Asa Jackson.  Not only was there essentially minutes of comedy (to the Raven fan) in viewing the protests of the Charger sideline at seeing his head start, but in retrospect, there is amazement at how #27 got the jump he did with no penalty.  Hint: It was legal!  We'll break it down with this week's Frame-by-Frame after the jump.

I'm not going to be shy about it; I lobbied for Asa Jackson to be re-signed when the Ravens released him.  At the time I said, "I think he will bless this team."  Well, thus far he has been responsible for 8 points to the Ravens advantage: he blocked a punt vs. Arizona last week, which was promptly turned into a score from the 1 yard line, and then he blocked the extra point vs. San Diego this past Sunday which enabled the Ravens to tie the game with a FG.  

Upon looking more closely, it appears that he discovered a caveat to the Charger's particular snap game that would enable him to get a head start on the line, legally.  

AS has been my trend this season, I start out with the NFL Rulebook, defining the crucial portion of our topic: the Snap.

The snap (3-32) may be made by any offensive player who is on the line of scrimmage but must conform to the following provisions:
  1. The snap must start with the ball on the ground, with its long axis horizontal and at right angles to the line.
  2. It is not necessary that the snap be between the snapper’s legs, but it must be one quick and continuous motion of the hand or hands of the snapper. The ball must leave or be taken from his hands during this motion.

Actually, one cannot blame the San Diego bench,  There was no way that their vantage point from the bench could synch up Asa's timing and the beginning of the snap.  To be clear, the beginning of the snap is when a player is legally able to advance:


After the ball has been declared ready for play, it becomes a live ball when it is legally snapped or legally kicked (a free kick or fair catch kick). The ball remains dead if it is snapped or kicked before it is made ready for play.
Rule excerpts: NFL Rule Book 2015, Rule 7, Sections 1 & 3.
Not AFTER the ball has been snapped, WHEN it is snapped.  Terrell Suggs has done this as well: timing his start with the start of the snap.  The only risk is that there is no instant replay for offsides in and of itself, so one could be subject to a judgment call.  It truly appears offsides because the intricacies of a snap are hidden beneath the mass of humanity in the center of the line.  Knowing the Ravens special teams, they might have had a conversation with the officials pre-play or pre-game, alerting them to the fact that the San Diego snapper has a particular quirk, which may not be unique to him, which enables the defense to begin the play.
 Take a look:
Charger Long Snapper Mike Windt not only twists the ball, which was cited in the broadcast, but he lifts the ball to get a catapult-like effect when snapping it.  By rule, the moment he lifts the ball, the snap is in motion.  THIS is the point where Jackson was jumping.  This is easily visible from the coach's film endzone camera, along with some other clues (click on the photo to enlarge):
 Jackson seems to be looking at one of two, or both, cues given by the Chargers' holder, P Mike Scifres.  In the above, the head of Scifres is facing the kicker.  Red light.

 In the above, Scifres' head now faces the Windt, but notice his right arm, which is not extended.  Yellow light.

This screengrab was done maybe .5 seconds after Scifres extended his arm to the turf--not even all the way out, to disguise the signal--and look at Asa.  He has timed this out, but if you look very closely, the snap has begun it's motion.  Jackson is already up and launching himself.  The amount of free run he gets is remarkable--no one on either team reacted to the initial snap motion.

In the motion grab below, I highlight the line of scrimmage as a marker for your "eye memory" and then pull a coach's clicker on the initial rush.  (Please accept my apologies for the varying size on the circles.)  Look at how amazingly perfect Jackson's timing is.  Consider the earlier close-up, where there is a "cock" before the launch of the snap.  It is hard to see but definitely exists....proof positive that Jackson was motion-centered, teeing off on the move that he must have studied up for.

Just for shucks and chuckles, I grabbed the sideline of the Chargers going crazy over the second jump by Jackson.  This really irritated them.

Perhaps even more irritating is the fact that this was legal.  Another excellent special teams contribution by Asa Jackson.
Do you agree? Disagree?  Your thoughts are welcome below, or over on the site at the Ravens forum.  For automatic links to posts, follow me on twitter: @chrisbraven .