Tress Way said it best when talking to reporters during the Washington Football Team's OTAs: "It's definitely a little bit of a change looking forward and seeing a new butt up there."
Every day is a new experience for Camaron Cheeseman as Washington's new long snapper. He was one of the more talented players at his position in college football, but like every rookie, he has spent the past two months getting acclimated to the professional game.
Cheeseman has a long list of priorities he needs to check off in his first season, and right at the top is building strong trust and chemistry with his teammates, particularly Way and kicker Dustin Hopkins. The bond they share will be pivotal to how Washington's special teams operates this upcoming season. From what special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor has seen, Cheeseman is handling that just fine.
"Developing chemistry is an ongoing process," Kaczor said, "and the more good chemistry that occurs, they develop confidence in each other."
Many might not know it, but there is a lot more to long snapping than throwing a ball between your legs. Cheeseman has to worry about the location of the laces on the ball as well as the location and spin rate of the ball itself. There are two factors that connect all of those areas together: the kicker and holder need to have faith that Cheeseman is going to deliver a clean ball, and Cheeseman needs to alter his snapping style according to their preferences.
On short snaps, which are for field goals and extra points, some holders like the snap to be a little high; others like it to be lower. Way and Hopkins also need to know that there will be little to no wobble in Cheeseman's snaps, and when the ball does get into Way's hands, he won't need to turn the laces too much.
Things are a little different on punt snaps, too. Punters don't like moving their feet, Kaczor said; it only makes them work harder to kick the ball away. So, Way and Kaczor want the zone for Cheeseman's snaps to be between Way's belt and chest. That will all but eliminate any side-to-side movement and allow Way to efficiently take his two-step approach.
Kaczor doesn't expect Cheeseman's snaps to be perfect -- it hardly ever is, even among the best long snappers -- but developing a consistency in those areas will help the other two specialists to put trust in him.
"The easier [Cheeseman] can make the punter's job when he's punting with accuracy and not making him move his feet," Kaczor said, "and the three things...on the short snap, that's the starting point."
It might not be a requirement to be a good long snapper, but it is also important for Cheeseman to have a personality that mixes well with Way and Hopkins, who have been playing together since 2015. Head coach Ron Rivera said Cheeseman "has got some personality," which is a good sign considering he'll be working with some of the bigger personalities on the team. The team vetted him prior to taking him in the sixth round, and so far, Cheeseman has been exactly what the coaches thought he would be.
"He's a smart player," Kaczor said. "He's an aware player. He's wired, very consistently wired. He's not too up and down emotionally. He's off to a good start."
Cheeseman is not working to build chemistry alone, either. Way remembers how Nick Sundberg treated him when he was a rookie. He remembers how Sundberg helped him on and off the field by answering all his questions, and now he gets to do the same for Cheeseman.
"I think the ultimate compliment to Nick was how he treated me and how he helped me with my approach on the field," Way said. "That's what I can do to the next guy up."
That's why Way reached out to Cheeseman right after the draft. Hopkins reached out shortly after, and his initial impression is that they're both "really great guys." He'll have plenty of questions as they get used to working together, and he plans to use their experience as an asset for the foreseeable future.
"I know they'll guide me along the way to get me going," Cheeseman said. "Because we'll be one unit."