Kickoff return has been a part of the game of football since it started. And the most basic return strategy has been using the wedge.
It is not fancy. But the wedge kickoff return is one of the best ways to get big yards when you get a chance to return a kick. In this episode, find out how to run the wedge return, adjustments you can make, and how to attack a team running wedge returns against you.
The History of the Wedge Return
- It seems like kickoffs have always been a part of the game, at least going back to the first ‘professional’ game. And the wedge is the obvious way to block for the returner.
- The wedge is essentially a zone blocking solution to the kickoff return. Other kickoff returns use a man blocking scheme. Angles are used like a gap blocking run play.
- The NFL made wedge kickoff returns illegal in 2009. You could still use two men in a wedge, but in 2018 that was removed as well. The NCAA followed, but the wedge kick off return is still legal in NFHS rules.
How To Execute a Wedge Kickoff Return
- The Wedge Kickoff Return is the simplest and most common way to block on Kickoff Return.
- In a Wedge-Wedge return, the front line forms a wedge and then a second wedge is formed behind that.
- With 5 blockers on the front line, as the ball is kicked over their head they run together at a spot ~10 yards behind and come together to form a wall.
- When the wall comes together, one of the blockers gives a “GO!” call and the wedge pushes forward.
- A second wall forms behind, usually closer to the returner and not always in the middle.
- The returner must get close to the wedge (within 5-7 yards) so that defenders cannot run around the wall of blockers to make the tackle.
- With the speed of the kickoff teams, the front line has a hard time coming together before the defenders are on them. Many teams use a different form of blocking line cross-blocks on the front line.
- Players cannot just run into the wedge as soon as the ball is kicked. They have to check to make sure the kick is not an onside, squib or pooch kick. When Special Teams Coaches see the front line leaving early, it is the best time to call for the onside kick.
Shut Down a Wedge Kickoff Return
- To attack a Wedge Kickoff Return, you need to break the wedge. Putting one crazy kid in the middle of your kickoff team as a “Wedgebuster” can create a seam in the wedge.
- As mentioned above, if you see the front line leaving early to get into the wedge, call for the onside kick.
- Squib kicks and pooch kicks are too short for the blockers to form a wedge. It also keeps the ball from getting into the hands of the featured returner.
- Use directional kicks to get outside of the wedge. If your kicker is good enough to kick the ball into a corner, the wedge becomes less effective. The returner has a long way to go if he wants to get back into the wedge blocking.