Every day leading up to the start of training camp, 49ers.com will assess the team's roster as we get closer to the season. In this installment of the 2022 Roster Breakdown, 49ers.com is taking a look at the team's specialists and the unit's outlook for their third-consecutive season together.
What are Special Teams?
Special teams consists of the players who are on the field during kicking plays. The group includes kickers, punters, kickoff returners, receivers and any player involved in kick coverage and returns. Here is a list of a few specialists:
- Punter (P): A specialist who only plays on punting downs, specifically on fourth down.
- Kicker (K): The player who is responsible for kicking duties such as field goals and extra points.
- Kick returner (KR)/Punt returner (PR): A player who catches and returns kickoffs or catches and returns punts.
- Long Snapper (LS): A player who snaps the ball in punting and kicking situations.
San Francisco's specialists, kicker Robbie Gould, punter Mitch Wishnowsky and long snapper Taybor Pepper, are all signed through the 2022 season. This locked-in group is entering their third season together and will be guided under the team's new special teams coordinator Brian Schneider.
Schneider returns to coaching in the NFL after working as the special teams coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks from 2010-20. During that span, Seattle's special teams unit ranked first in the NFL in takeaways (26), second in blocked kicks (24) and fifth in touchdowns scored (14).
"He's had a very long record of being a very successful special teams coach," Gould said on NBC Sports 49ers Talk. "He's one of the best coaches I've had in my 18 years."
The 49ers special teams unit had a few shining moments in the 2021 season, including a chilling 45-yard game-winning field goal against the Green Bay Packers that sent San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game.
Unfortunately, the season also included an injury to Gould, who missed four games from Weeks 4-8. Gould also stepped in at punter when Wishnowsky was in the concussion protocol during Week 18's must-win contest against the Los Angeles Rams.
After the season ended, Richard Hightower, who was the 49ers special teams coordinator from 2017-2021, took a job with the Chicago Bears.
"We finished the season great," Gould said. "We've just got to put a whole season together and I think we will."
Last season, Gould connected on 87 percent of his field goals, including three of four from 50 or more yards.
In the team's regular-season finale, the NFL honored Gould as the NFC special teams player of the week for his contributions as a kicker and punter in the 49ers 27-24 victory over the Rams.
Gould was also six-for-six on field goals kicked in the 49ers playoff run last year. In his career, Gould is perfect during the playoffs with 21-of-21 field goals made, including 13-of-13 with San Francisco.
He is the NFL's active leader with 420 made field goals in his career and ranks seventh all-time in field goal accuracy at 86.6 percent.
Pepper played in every game, including the postseason, for the 49ers in 2021.
The long snapper joined the team as a free agent in 2020, a season where he was also credited with two tackles.
Last season, Wishnowsky earned his second-career NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honor after his Week 2 performance against the Philadelphia Eagles – recording two punts that pinned the Eagles inside their own 10 yard line, neither resulting in points.
The punter also earned NFC Player of the Month honors in September 2021. That month, Wishnowsky registered 11 punts for 515 yards, including a long of 59 yards, with six landing inside the opposition's 20 yard line.
Wishnowsky was named a Pro Bowl alternate following the 2021 season.