Every NFL offense uses some variation of a silent count during road games, when the crowd noise can drown out the quarterback’s play calls. That, on the whole, is nothing new.
But the Patriots have utilized a lesser-used method when they’re in the shotgun formation that has many people wondering when they watch the telecasts: Why in the world does Brian Waters keep tapping McDonald’s right leg?
It’s actually a pretty simple system. The offense knows the snap count as they head to the line of scrimmage, and Waters turns around to watch quarterback Tom Brady get everything in order. Once Brady lifts his leg, Waters taps McDonald to start the snap count. Then, McDonald will rattle it off in his head before snapping the ball to Brady.
“The silent count is really not that difficult,” McDonald said. “We practice it every week when we’re playing an away game. It’s really not that difficult. You grow up learning how to do it in college. There are different forms of it, but it’s pretty simple.”
The snap count is obviously different for every play. After all, it would be a huge advantage for the defense to see Waters tap McDonald’s leg and then get ready to fly after Brady.
The advantage of this method is it gives McDonald a little extra time to read the defense and recognize the blocking assignments. The alternative to the leg-tapping method would call for McDonald to look through his legs to see Brady lift his leg, which would take away from McDonald’s time to read the defense.
It’s been a big help for the second-year center, who was signed to the Patriots’ practice squad in September before making his first pair of starts in the last two weeks. McDonald has appreciated the help he has received from his veteran teammates, particularly the two guards who flank him in the starting lineup.
“It’s great having these guys,” McDonald said. “I’ve got two Pro Bowl guys right next to me when I’m out there playing, and it’s amazing. Brian Waters and Logan Mankins, these guys have been in the league for a long time and understand the game and understand different parts of the game, help you learn different ways and make the game a lot easier for you.”
McDonald has also earned high praise from his teammates and head coach Bill Belichick, who have been impressed with his ability to step right in and contribute.
“I think a difficult thing to do is to step in and understand our offense in that year time frame, especially as a rookie or a guy coming in off the streets,” left tackle Matt Light said. “He’s done a great job, and he’s got a lot of confidence when he goes out there and plays. I think it’s showed in his ability to step in and do what he’s done so far. We’ll need it.”
Photo via Flickr/Charlie Bagent