Approaching nearly three decades coaching special teams in the NFL, Joe DeCamillis knows what it takes to put together a successful group.
He's guided punters, kickers, coverage units and return units to statistically strong finishes at every stop. Most recently, in each of the last three years with the Jaguars (2018-20), his units placed seventh, fifth and 13th respectively in veteran NFL reporter Rick Gosselin's annual special teams rankings.
Now, he's bringing those core principles with him to Los Angeles as the Rams' new special teams coordinator.
Early in his introductory press conference, DeCamillis pointed to two foundational pieces to his success: His passion, and the quality of players.
"I would say the secret to success is, my father-in-law is Coach Reeves, Dan Reeves," DeCamillis said during a video conference Thursday. "So, that was a long time ago, but he told me to be myself. That was one of the biggest things that we talked about. So, I've tried to follow that as much as I can. Be as passionate every day as I can and just enjoy the job. That's really what it's all about."
Like the other phases in the game, DeCamillis said the more talented players you have, the greater chance of success.
In that regard, he feels confident in where the Rams stand at punter – four-time Pro Bowl selection Johnny Hekker enters his 10th NFL season in 2021 and has a career average of 46.9 yards per punt. DeCamillis also likes the trajectory of kicker Matt Gay, who made 14 of 16 field goal attempts and 16 of 16 extra point attempts in seven games with Los Angeles last season.
"It's to field as much as we can in coverage, which means just trying to put it in small areas, which we've got a great punter to do that," DeCamillis said. "The kicker, I think it's going to get better as we go. Then the return game, you want to spread the field, make it as wide as you can, get as many gaps as you can for your return team, and then get a great return. We've got to get a guy that can ring the bell and drop the ball over the goal line."
The Rams were notorious for trick plays under John Fassel, their special teams coordinator from 2012-19. Hekker didn't attempt a pass under Fassel's successor, John Bonamego, last season, but DeCamillis indicated he was open to it.
"I think it depends on what the head coach's plan is, what your team plan is," DeCamillis said. "You want to play complimentary football as much as possible. Sometimes, they come up. Sometimes they don't. In Jacksonville, we were very successful the last few years doing that and I know having the talent that John has, I hope we're able to continue the 'trickeration.'"
When it comes to special teams personnel, the Rams have a couple decisions to make regarding key positions DeCamillis will be overseeing.
As DeCamillis alluded to earlier, he said the return game is still being evaluated. Wide receiver Nsimba Webster primarily handled both duties for the Rams last year, averaging 21.7 yards per kickoff return and 7.4 yards per punt return.
"One of the things that you got to really evaluate as much as anything is the better the blocking schemes are, and the better holes you have to run through, the better the return is going to be," DeCamillis said. "Now, where you get special is when it's a guy that has (former kick returner/punt returner) Devin Hester type-ability. Those types of things, that's where you can really become special."
Additionally, long snapper Jake McQuaide, who has played in every game in his 10 years with the team, is a pending unrestricted free agent. The Rams currently have two long snappers signed to reserve/future contracts in Steven Wirtel and Colin Holba.
"You really have to get the right one," DeCamillis said. "On the other side of it though, Jake is a great long snapper in this league. Part of the reason that Hekker's been successful, part of the reason that (former Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein) was successful here, was because of him. So, a lot of respect and again, the finances, they'll just have to work those things out and hopefully he'll have a chance to come in here and compete because I think he's excellent."