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Battle for Special Teams Positions Begins

Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith has several issues to sort through this preseason - ranging from a kicking competition to replacing two special-teams stalwarts in James Thrash and Khary Campbell - and after the first practice of training camp devoted specifically to the unit, Smith said he is eager for the evaluations to get under way.

Several young players have an opportunity to crack the 53-man roster based on their performance on special teams, and in Saturday afternoon's practice they got their first opportunity to impress Smith in the hour-long session spent mostly working through drills.

"The big thing [to look for] is, is effort number one," Smith said of evaluating the younger players. "If you give effort, my job is to coach him and that's the way I look at it. Like I said a lot of the guys don't know how to do it. And then I start looking for pad level, and are they coachable, do they take coaching. When I make a correction do they have it right the next time, do they not?"

Thrash and Campbell, the unit's two leading tacklers last season, may not be replaced by just two new faces, Smith said.

Thrash, who was released this offseason and re-joined the team in a non-playing role, was versatile and reliable, filling roles as a gunner and returner among other things. Campbell played important roles in nearly every special teams unit - including kick and punt coverage and return - and led Washington with 27 tackles.

"It may take me two guys to take two spots each [unit]," he said. "It may take one guy that gets all four spots, it may take four guys [and] they each got a spot. I think we have a good core and will fill them, I do, I feel good about that. Will I have the same trust to start? Probably not, because I really trust those guys and they've done it, they're veterans, they're good at it, they like it, it was important; we were on the same page. So that's going to take time."

The two most intriguing battles of the preseason, however, are at kicker and punt returner.

Smith said that while Antwaan Randle El will remain the main option at punt returner, "you'll see a little more by committee," though the committee is unknown with Santana Moss, DeAngelo Hall and return specialists Dominique Dorsey and Anthony Alridge in the mix.

Moss and Hall likely will be limited in their returns because of their extensive duties with the offense and defense, while Alridge and Dorsey are "going to have to be special to find spots," Smith said, adding, "but they both have a chance to be special."

The Redskins signed Dave Rayner to push incumbent Shaun Suisham for the starting job after Suisham struggled with his range last season - hitting just 12-of-20 from outside 40 yards.

"It's going to be a real deal competition, I mean it really is," Smith said. "And they're battling. They're both good players, they're both good people, they're both good competitors, they're both tireless workers. It's a match up."

With all the competitions going on around him, Smith said he was relieved about the signing of veteran punter Hunter Smith, who brings stability the Redskins have lacked for several years to the position.

Hunter Smith spent the last 10 years with the Indianapolis Colts and has a career average of 43.4 yards per punt, with a net of 35.2.

"Hunter is a punter and it's been a long time since we had one of those," Smith said. "He's a punter, he's a pro, he's good. And wherever we say a ball is going to be there's a pretty good chance it's going to be there this year."

By Paul Tenorio  |  August 1, 2009; 5:45 PM ET
 
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Next: Campbell Offers Early Assessment

Comments

Foirst!!'

Posted by: jiza32 | August 1, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Time to ditch the ARE experiment on punt returns.

I'd love to see Hall back there. I know he's a starting corner and all but he's so explosive. For some reason defensive players are more dynamic in the return game (Devin Hester, Pac Man Jones and even Ed Reed for a hot minute).

Posted by: elfreako | August 1, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I feel like the same 5 things are repeated on this blog every day! I think everyone in the world is aware that Mike Williams is down 100 pounds, Stephan Heyer is unproven, we got Dockery back from the Bills, and the other guys are old. Can't we just edit those paragraphs out of the blog posts?

Posted by: mikeyvanilli | August 1, 2009 6:01 PM

If you do that, you'll have a really short post:

"Samuels and Thomas are coming back off injuries."

Posted by: talent_evaluator | August 1, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Like to see some informed, detailed reporting about those differences and how they shape up. And no, that doesn't include just repeating what the coach says about it.

Posted by: TheCork | August 1, 2009 4:14 PM

This is where we miss Jasno. He would call assorted "league executives," "talent evaluators," and "NFL sources" (Ozzie Newsome, Charley Casserly, Leigh Torrence, and a few players' agents) until he had enough negatives and then he'd run them. This new guy just doesn't seem to be able to do this same type of "informed, detailed reporting" when we need it.

Posted by: talent_evaluator | August 1, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

"...while Antwaan Randle El will remain the main option at punt returner," the Redskins will continue to have a net punt return average of 1.5 yards.

Posted by: freakzilla | August 1, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

This is where we miss Jasno. He would call assorted "league executives," "talent evaluators," and "NFL sources" (Ozzie Newsome, Charley Casserly, Leigh Torrence, and a few players' agents) until he had enough negatives and then he'd run them. This new guy just doesn't seem to be able to do this same type of "informed, detailed reporting" when we need it.

Posted by: talent_evaluator | August 1, 2009 6:16 PM |

Can't say I miss the little marmot.

Some blogs have "specialists", guys who know how offensive and defensive schemes work, study film, and can tell you what is working and not working for your team. They are not the daily blog guy, they post a report maybe 2 or 3 times a week and usually what they have to say is interesting and informative, especially for post mortem game analysis. Like when the passing offense has tanked, whether it is a QB, WR or OL problem.

Some blogs have "data heads", guys who parse all the data there is on your team and tell you what is working or not working from that perspective. There are hidden patterns in numbers that can uncover and shed new light on a team's performance. The data heads are not the daily blog guy, they post maybe once or twice a week at most.

Of course specialists and data heads are also called "consultants" and if they are any good at what they do they usually charge a pretty penny for their services, far more than a newspaper-owned website blog has in its budget.

Posted by: LibertyValence | August 1, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Let the excuses begin on why the offensive line cannot pass block... I am sure they will be better after more practice, but how much better? Zorn better start practicing plays that limit his quarterback's exposure because, if they block in the regular season like they did today, Campbell won't make it through the season.

As for punt returner, someone should be able to take this job away from ARE this preseason and I think giving as many guys an audition as possible will be the right thing. Let the best man win.

Posted by: RedSkinHead | August 1, 2009 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Here's a nice twatt:

DCsportsradiojust got a txt from a vet skins player, it read: "you would NEVER think Rak was a rookie, his presence is overwhelming!" NICE!
14 minutes ago from web

Posted by: scampbell1975 | August 1, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

If O-line is so shaky, obtain Runyan NOW, for call backup.. -Hamfield McCoy

Posted by: frak | August 1, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Like to see some informed, detailed reporting about those differences and how they shape up. And no, that doesn't include just repeating what the coach says about it.

Posted by: TheCork | August 1, 2009 4:14 PM

This is where we miss Jasno. He would call assorted "league executives," "talent evaluators," and "NFL sources" (Ozzie Newsome, Charley Casserly, Leigh Torrence, and a few players' agents) until he had enough negatives and then he'd run them. This new guy just doesn't seem to be able to do this same type of "informed, detailed reporting" when we need it.

Posted by: talent_evaluator


Just because I called you an experimental CIA Cyborg is no reason for you to get snarky on me.

Mine was a serious suggestion, and we see some of my desires for individual OLine performances sprinkled in the coverage here and on redskins.Com. "So and so blew by such an such." "Some other lineman stoned a defensive end" etc. And yes, it's a little early to draw conclusions, but I think my point is valid.

It's not enough to go with the hoary cliche that the "defense is ahead of the offense" and leave it at that. Granted, Duh Mayor is doing yeoman and tireless work reporting the news. Doesn't look like he has much help, so I'm not blaming him.

Shouldn't Redskins camp be an "all hands on deck" operation for the Post?

Let's not forget there was a time not long ago when there were two Jasons covering this stuff.

What Reid appears to prefer and is best at is straightforward reporting. Fine and dandy. What's missing is critical analysis. And while a good argument can be made that JLC let the pendulum swing too far in that direction, this blog will suffer if it becomes merely a quick and dirty repetition of "who what when and where" and ignores the "why."

Posted by: TheCork | August 1, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Here's a nice twatt:

DCsportsradiojust got a txt from a vet skins player, it read: "you would NEVER think Rak was a rookie, his presence is overwhelming!" NICE!
14 minutes ago from web

Posted by: scampbell1975

I have mixed emotions. Delighted because it's positive about a top Redskin draft pick, sad because it reminds me what Arrington might have been if he only had a brain.

Posted by: TheCork | August 1, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

What's missing is critical analysis. And while a good argument can be made that JLC let the pendulum swing too far in that direction ...

Posted by: TheCork | August 1, 2009 7:53 PM |

What it did was it swung in the direction of pig sticking, not critical analysis.

Posted by: BlackBagOps | August 1, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

it reminds me what Arrington might have been if he only had a brain

I thought he was "football smart". Or do you need a brain for that?

What Reid appears to prefer and is best at is straightforward reporting. Fine and dandy. What's missing is critical analysis.

I think you're right, but it's only a day or two into the affair. It's like calling the president a disaster after six months.
If there's one thing I'd recommend to the mayor, it's that he avoid the "let me reset for the casual reader" approach to post-writing. It's the repetition of the critical analysis that earns the label. It was reasonably important to make printed articles stand alone; Up Here, not so much.
But I'm no media critic, so what do I know.

Posted by: daggar | August 1, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

cool fantasy football type game. you are the agent for your players and you train/assign them skill points as they move up to higher level leagues on human owned teams.

http://goallineblitz.com/game/signup.pl?ref=33323692

ive posted this before, i need the referal points :)

Posted by: DaFunBunch | August 1, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Shanahan had John Elway at quarterback, of course he won a superbowl with all that talent.Billick won a superbowl with a less talented team in my opinion.Shanahan is overrated.Denver ate 20 million$ to get rid of him,thats no chump change.Why is he so heralded? I'd just assume ride or die with Zorn.Even if the O-line stinks up the joint and therefore little improvement on offense,you cant blame Zorn for lack of talent on the O-line.

Posted by: mark65 | August 1, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Like to see some informed, detailed reporting about those differences and how they shape up. And no, that doesn't include just repeating what the coach says about it.

Posted by: TheCork | August 1, 2009 4:14 PM


As would I.

Can we get Ross Tucker down for a day or is he too big hanging with Peter King and Dan Patrick these days?

Seriously, I think it would be fair to ask coaches straight up why they think guys are getting beat and make them answer straight up. Go after them if they throw out the predictable "it's early" crap.

And BTW, Jasno never offered any critical analysis - just criticism minus the analysis. Jasno knows about as much as you and I on the nuances of pass-protection, technique and blocking assignments which is shabingus...

And to whoever said we are freaking out too early about the O-line, allow me to calmly suggest that you watch some video from the last 8 games of last season. Then tell me how much benefit of the doubt we ought to afford this group...

Posted by: p1funk | August 1, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Oh man I saw JLC on the nfl network, he was terrible! He tried making this Mr. T Rocky III joke...it failed! The RI Blog is so much better now without that hack!

Posted by: BMACattack | August 1, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

And to whoever said we are freaking out too early about the O-line

freak away, my friend.
Are we freaking our way into a trade, or do we have to do it until they select an OT next year (which sounds like it'll be a Saturday pick)?

Posted by: daggar | August 1, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, I think it would be fair to ask coaches straight up why they think guys are getting beat and make them answer straight up. Go after them if they throw out the predictable "it's early" crap.

Posted by: p1funk | August 1, 2009 10:41 PM

Come on, funk. Do you really want a coach to broadcast to the world how to beat his own players? This is what those anonymous "league sources" and "talent evaluators" are for.

Posted by: talent_evaluator | August 1, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

No TO in Dallas. And Romo blo's

No Plex in NY.

No Jim Johnson in Philly (RIP - one hel of a coordinator!)

Skins setting up one wicked D. Gotta like that.

Second year in the same O for Jason. Second year for those wiz-kid 2nd round recievers. If o-line rolls, we could do some serious damage this year.

Maybe it does make sense seeing if Runyon still has some gas in his tank...

Posted by: edvar | August 1, 2009 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Another day, another endless Janso retrospective....d-u-l-l.

Oh and Ross Tucker, I am a fan, but if you listen to Sirius NFL when he is hosting he bashes the Skins like it is his job.

Posted by: chrislarry | August 2, 2009 12:24 AM | Report abuse

many rivers to cross...many axes to grind.

Posted by: _Stumped_ | August 2, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

So much love to give up here. So much love.

Posted by: NateinthePDX | August 2, 2009 1:08 AM | Report abuse

it reminds me what Arrington might have been if he only had a brain--THE CORK

I thought he was "football smart". Or do you need a brain for that?

DAGGAR

Hardly. JoPa didn't think so and neither did a series of frustrated Redskin coaches who couldn't get him to play a team sport because of either his ego or inability to know where he was supposed to be.

The topper was when he was traded to the Gianst and someone asked a coach or teammate were they worried he might pass alopng the redskins defensive formations. The answer was "I'm not sure LaVarr ever knew the redskins defensive formations."

I get the impression orakpo is one smart cookie. AND coachable.

Posted by: TheCork | August 2, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse

What Reid appears to prefer and is best at is straightforward reporting. Fine and dandy. What's missing is critical analysis.--TheCORK

I think you're right, but it's only a day or two into the affair. It's like calling the president a disaster after six months--DAGGAR.


I was basing it on Reid's own statements that he's mostly been a beat reporter, not an analyzer, during much of his 20 year career.

As for the chief executive, he's pretty good for our first furriner president, but someone needs to straighten out the man's taste in beer. "Bud Light?" Yeeeech.

Posted by: TheCork | August 2, 2009 1:14 AM | Report abuse

many rivers to cross...many axes to grind.

Posted by: _Stumped_ | August 2, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse


Early leader for Post of the Day. Superbly funny.

Posted by: SoCal_SkinsFan | August 2, 2009 1:48 AM | Report abuse

When you go OL vs. DL drills and the OL can't hold the DL, why is it? Sometimes the DL is able to punch a hole in the OL and break through. Apply pressure and somewhere on the OL it caves. Other times there is a lot of movement and feinting, usually around the edge, and the OL cannot track it somebody on the DL runs right by and into the backfield, barely touched. Two different types of breaches.

Posted by: SnakerShaker | August 2, 2009 4:47 AM | Report abuse

There's cannon fodder in every NFL camp. Some guy that signs a vet minimum contract during the offseason. Maybe he will make it to the regular season on the roster, maybe not. Say he gets cut sometime during preseason, maybe even making it to the final cut. What would the Skins actually end up paying him if he signed for say $2M? Maybe nothing. He doesn't need any money during training camp because he gets room and board. If he is on the opening day roster then he will get the $2M even if he is cut during the season. But what does he end up getting paid off the contract if he is cut during preseason? $100,000?

Posted by: SnakerShaker | August 2, 2009 5:21 AM | Report abuse

"I mean, think about the Berlin Wall," Portis said Saturday after practice, thinking back on his trip. "Seeing that, seeing all the shooting towers, and how far away everything was built from it, that's a lot of land to cross. It's obvious to spot you trying to run across there. Just the sacrifice to get across, man." You create figurative walls between yourself and other people when you say mean things about them in public. Just like the Berlin Wall, not only is it a barrier but there are the vast open spaces of a no-man's land where once there was trust and understanding.

Posted by: SnakerShaker | August 2, 2009 7:09 AM | Report abuse

beep beep

Posted by: CindyBoren | August 2, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

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