Last week, USA Football unveiled its sixth-annual “All-Fundamentals Team”—a group of 26 NFL players from 22 teams that exhibit a fundamentally sound style of play that youths should aim to emulate.
A five-person selection committee comprised of Charles Davis, an analyst for NFL Network and Fox Sports; Herm Edwards, an ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL head coach; Merril Hoge, an ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL running back; Carl Peterson, the USA Football chairman; and Bill Polian, an ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL general manager, made the picks. According to a release from USA Football, these players “employ proper technique, particularly when blocking and tackling, which fosters inherent safety benefits and better on-field performance.”
Among those chosen were Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, and Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. USAFootball.com’s Will Heckman-Mark explained what makes Kuechly, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, so fundamentally sound:
After the snap, Kuechly excels at zone coverage because of his ability to both read quarterbacks' eyes and recognize passing concepts. On running plays, he avoids traffic and moves downhill, taking an inside-out angle that keeps him from overrunning the ball-carrier while making the sideline-to-sideline plays he is known for.
Gronkowski’s placement on this list may raise some eyebrows, given the memorable unnecessary roughness penalty he earned a few weeks back against the Indianapolis Colts. As it turns out, however, that was just his third earned penalty of the season, per Pro-Football-Reference. (He drew an offensive pass interference flag against the Detroit Lions the next week, but a defensive holding call against DeAndre Levy offset that penalty.) That’s 12 penalties fewer than the league-high 15 calls against his teammate, cornerback Brandon Browner.
“These 26 men serve as examples to the millions of youth football players across the nation that fundamentals are vital to success at every level,” said Peterson in a statement. “According to medical experts, players who master the fundamentals and learn them at younger ages are safer as they progress within the sport.”
Each of the 26 selected earned a $1,000 equipment grant to donate to a high school or youth-football program. Those voted “captains” of the team—voting is open on the organization’s Facebook page until Monday, Dec. 22—will earn an extra $1,000 grant.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.