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Special Teams Saturday, with Alexander

We're back with another installment of Special Teams Saturday with Lorenzo Alexander. Actually, this is our first Saturday installment. We had planned to do this on Fridays throughout the season and did so last week. But with so much news to cover this Friday -- the media's final day of access until after the game -- we decided to move the feature to Saturday this week and permanently.

Alexander plays key roles on kickoff coverage and kickoff returns and is a backup on punt coverage on punt returns. Last week, I neglected to mention the three-year veteran also is part of the point-after team. That's significant because of, well, what we're about to get into. Finally, away we go again.

Special teams provided a spark in last week's 23-17 loss to the New York Giants as punter Hunter Smith scored the Redskins' first touchdown on a faked field-goal attempt. With 33 seconds remaining in the first half, place kicker Shaun Suisham lined up to attempt a short field goal with Smith as the holder.

Smith took off when he received the ball from long snapper Ethan Albright and raced untouched to the right corner for his second career touchdown. As a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Smith had a 21-yard touchdown run on a fake during the 2003 season.

The play worked exactly the way special teams coordinator Danny Smith drew it up, Alexander said.

"We thought it would work pretty well because Danny watches a lot of film, and he would never call a fake without him being 100 percent sure it's going to work," said Alexander, who plays left tight end and right guard on point-after attempts. "If you look at his track record over the years, the onside kicks and all that, he usually knows what he's going to get.

"But I don't think he was nervous at all with having a veteran like Hunter back there. Hunter is real athletic. He's probably one of the more athletic punters I've ever been around. Danny has the confidence in us to run a fake, but that's our job as a special teams unit, anyway, to really get everybody going and create that spark. At that point in the game, we really needed a spark to kind of get out of that whole we dug for ourselves."

With the Redskins trailing, 17-0, Coach Jim Zorn felt something extra was needed - and Smith's special teams guys delivered despite the noise, Alexander said. "They were suppose to alert us [about the fake], but it was so loud that most of us didn't even know that he was running the fake. We couldn't hear the call," he said. "But it worked out pretty well because we had to block for him."

As for other aspects of the Redskins' performance on teams, the Giants averaged only 13.7 yards on three kickoff returns. Washington gave up no yards on punt returns as Giants primary returner Domenik Hixon called three fair catches and produced nothing on his only return. But the Redskins missed an opportunity to pin the Giants deep in their end in the first quarter when Byron Westbrook couldn't locate the ball and it bounced into the end zone for a touchback.

"We just need to get a couple more of those pin-downs, backing guys up, so they're starting drives on the 5-yard line and 10-yard line," Alexander said. "That way, we could give our defense a little more help. Just covering the ball a lot better overall and being more consistent with pinning back inside the 20."

The play on which Westbrook lost sight of the ball "is a real hard play," Alexander said. "You're trying to beat a guy, then you're trying to time a football that doesn't always give you the best of bounces. It happened to give us a great bounce. I think he just had his timing off."

On kickoff returns, Rock Cartwright averaged 24.3 yards. Ladell Betts gained 29 yards on his only return and Mike Sellers 13. Santana Moss gained a yard on the Redskins' only punt return.

"Our kickoff team did a good job getting the ball out," Alexander said.
Antwaan Randle El (seven catches, 98 yards) did well in his new role as a slot receiver, and the Redskins are eager for him to have a big game returning punts. Washington must be sound fundamentally against the Rams' speedy kickoff and punt returners, Alexander said.

"We need to start on a high note," he said. "If that means putting the offense out there on the 40-yard line with a great return, or starting them at the 5-yard line to help out or defense, then that's what we just have to do. Just setting the tone at a high level right off the bat. They have some good returners on their punt team as far as catching the ball and just going.

"They really get up the field. They really don't juke too much. We' have to be good in our coverage. And their punter [Donnie Jones] can kick the ball very well. We were watching film, and in the air, he had kicks that went sixty, 70 yards. We'll really have to get on our blocks. If we do, that'll give El some room back there and we could capitalize on that."

By Jason Reid  |  September 19, 2009; 1:06 PM ET
Categories:  Jason Reid  
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first to say skins cover.

Posted by: saltine182 | September 19, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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