ST. LOUIS (AP) - Jake McQuaide’s objective is efficiency without being noticed.
The long snapper is the man standing behind the curtain on St. Louis Rams special teams, getting the job done going on five NFL seasons.
“I don’t think he’s ever had a bad day,” kicker Greg Zuerlein said after practice Saturday. “I don’t want to jinx him, but the ball is always where it needs to be.
“Just perfect, all the time.”
McQuaide arrived without fanfare in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State and beat out Chris Massey, who’d lasted nine years at the position. He’s signed through 2017 and though the Rams have another long snapper in camp, Tyler Ott is just getting experience.
“Nobody really notices the long snapper unless something goes array,” special teams coach John Fassel said. “Jake is so consistent and he’s improved so much. He does everything and he’s improved, too, with the little things.”
According to team statistics, McQuaide has made 575 “clean” snaps without a mishap in his career. Though by design he’s in the second wave downfield, he also has eight special teams tackles.
“I think we have the best special teams, and for us to be better, I have to be even better,” McQuaide said. “I thought last year I snapped as well as anybody you could put on film.”
McQuaide was already established when Zuerlein and Johnny Hekker came in together in 2012, the kicker as a sixth-round draft pick and the punter undrafted. Zuerlein has three of the four longest field goals in franchise history, including a 60-yarder as a rookie, and has a career success rate of 82 percent.
In Friday’s scrimmage at Lindenwood University, Zuerlein connected from 64 yards.
Hekker went to the Pro Bowl in 2013 after setting an NFL single-season record with a net yardage of 44.2 yards. Last year he was second in the NFC in net punting, averaging 42.3 yards.
“Basically they bought themselves a Ferrari in Johnny, and you don’t want to put 87 in a Ferrari, you’ve got to go for the high octane,” McQuaide said. “So you have to have a perfect snap every single time to let him do his deal.”
Long snappers typically get the ball to the field goal holder in 1½ rotations. Fassel said McQuaide’s target time for zipping the ball to Hekker’s hip is between 0.70 and 0.75 seconds.
“He’s always doing things the right way,” Zuerlein said. “He’s a student of snapping. No mistakes.”
McQuaide separates himself from the pack by staying involved after the snap. Rules against mauling the punter aren’t applicable if the punting team uses motion so often McQuaide has to fend off a free shot before joining pursuit.
He knows the uniform numbers of players fellow NFC West teams will place on the nose to throw him off and doesn’t mind taking the hits.
“Basically, their whole job is to just make my day not so much fun,” McQuaide said. “To me, they’re giving up a dude that they could use on the gunners.
“As long as I’m sound in protecting, I hope they keep doing it, keep coming with it.”
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