Shooters, snipers, bandits, kamikazes, and -- for the coaches who dig a little deeper in the dictionary – they're even called marauders.
They have many titles across the football landscape, but most are known colloquially as the gunners.
On punts, these are the first guys down the field. They race down the sidelines in hopes of timing the ball to the returner, either tackling him or forcing him to fair catch.
But what makes an effective gunner?
"You've got to be really aggressive," Giants cornerback and special teamer Michael Coe said. "You're actually looking at the returner so you don't know exactly when he's catching the ball. You try to time up your hits sometimes. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not. At the end of the day, you've got to shoot your gun."
Newly acquired Justin Tryon weighed in.
"It's recognizing what the guy is going to do in front of you," said the longtime specialist. "Sometimes you have to do the fast release, sometimes you have to do a stutter and go. Sometimes you have to jab him – in, out, in, out. You've just got to play with it because there's only so much you can do in a bang-bang play."
Veteran punter Steve Weatherford, who forced an NFL best 27 fair catches and tied a league record with 42 punts inside the 20-yard line last season for the Jets, knows the gunners are his greatest allies. Well, maybe next to the long snapper, of course.
"You've just got to be a great athlete," Weatherford said. "I think it's speed. I think it's being able to break down and make a tackle when you're running a hundred miles an hour."
Often an overlooked position, the craft of a gunner is more than just flying downfield hoping to make a play.
The gunners, like any position group, learn through film. They receive scouting reports on who and what to expect at the line, whether there will be a double team, what moves the defender will use, and so on and so forth.
"You kind of get that mental picture in your head," Coe said. "What type of guy he is: big, slow-footed, fast-footed, or whatever. Then you make your little mental notes, and then after that, you've just got to go out, play and react."
In addition to speed, the job requires physicality. Ask Tryon, who learned during a preseason game alongside fellow rookie gunner (and then-Washington Redskin) Devin Thomas.
"We came back to the sideline, and he's like, 'How far did you get off the line?'" Tryon recalled. "I said, 'I don't even think I was on the line.' He said, 'Man, this is physical.' It's work out there. So each week, you've got to develop new moves. You have to put things in your toolbox because you can only do so much – you go in or out, in or out. You have a tool belt."*
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