Redskins, Danny Smith hope for many happy returns
In case you missed yesterday's story on the Redskins' search for a punt and kick returner entering this season, we'll take a more extensive look at some of the extras that were not able to make it into the story.
First, Santana Moss spoke not only about what it takes to be a successful returner in the league, but also whether or not he would like to get a chance to return punts again this year. Moss was a successful returner in college and has also produced solid returns for Washington, though he pulled a hamstring when returning a punt for a touchdown against Detroit in 2008.
"If it's allowed I'll do it," Moss said. "Whatever the team wants, I'll do. I'm not big on going out and saying, 'Hey, I'll do this.' I'm not that kind of guy. If it's allowed and they want me to I won't turn it down."
When Danny Smith was asked how much he'd like to use Moss, he was quick to discuss the difficulties of asking a playmaker to fill that role every few games.
"Santana Moss is a great person and a great player, Santana Moss will do anything I ask him to do," Smith said. "I love the guy I can't say enough good things about him. He's got a big responsibility to this football team as a receiver and we have to do a good job as coaches. There are 53 guys out there and we're dressing 45 of them, everybody has a role. And if his role is to take a spot this particular week in [returning] he will do those things. That's not easy to do.
"It's not easy to go out there one time and everybody expects you to be the game-changer. They need to get into a rhythm too, much like a quarterback needs to get into a rhythm, much like a pitcher needs to get into a rhythm, much like a point guard needs to get into a rhythm. And at that point that punt returner is the quarterback technically. You put the ball in his hands. And I think we put pressure on guys like that with, 'Hey we're going to do it once every three games, go do it.' That's hard to do for any of us. But if he's asked to do that, he will do that and he'll do it to the best of his ability."
Here's more ...
Smith on kickoff return, Rock Cartwright's consistency and what he looks for out of a return:
"Just as an example, last year the 31-yard line on kickoff return led the league. 31.1 yard line was the best starting point in the league by the Cleveland Browns and they returned three for touchdowns if I'm not mistaken with Cribbs. So when you think about catching a kickoff and you think about getting to the 31 it doesn't sound like a lot, it doesn't sound like it's hard, but 31.1 yard line on a consistent basis leads the league. And that's generally what it is, 31-, 32-yard line. It was 33 a few years ago when Devin Hester had his big year. So you're talking about the 31-, 32-, 33-, to lead the league on a consistent basis. So you've got to have that guy that can push a pile, the guy that can break it, but you always do want that threat of a home run. Sometimes you gotta stick somebody in the end zone.
"If you think about the kickoff return, and this is how they teach it, just that particular play, we're either opening a game to set the standard right there for field position, we're opening a half to set the standard for that half, or they just scored and now they're kicking to us, so it's our retaliation of how we're going to react to what's just happened to our defense in this case. We've just given up points, now here's our chance to retaliate. Now if we get the ball to the 20, it ain't good enough, we haven't retaliated. They got to play against us, we got to get it to the 31 and we've got to put it in the end zone now and then and I think we do have the people to do that."
Smith on if there will be space to keep two guys if those are the best two at punt and kick return:
"We're trying to find the best at every position on this football team and it's no different with our returners. If that guy happens to be the best at both than it's a good situation because then it gives you another roster spot somewhere along the line. If it's not and it's a best punt returner and a best kickoff returner you find a way to keep those guys. And ultimately Coach Shanahan will make that decision. But it doesn't have to be one guy, it can be two different guys - we want the best at each position and a punt returner and a kickoff returner are no different."
Smith on if he's been able to evaluate a lot in practice or if games are the best way:
"[Games are] the best evaluation. Obviously everything we do on a daily basis gets evaluated, okay. Me as a coach I evaluate, Coach Shanahan evaluates every day and we discuss it. In those situation we have a plan and we have what we think and what we predict is going to happen. But ultimately it's doing it in games. First time under pressure so that's the ultimate test is what we're working to. We'll have a plan and an idea going into that but yes they have to do it on a consistent basis in the preseason to get a spot on this roster."
Brian Mitchell also spoke extensively on the subject of punt and kick returner and also had some interesting things to say regarding the Redskins return situation last season. Mitchell said he's seen tape of rookie Terrence Austin and he believes he has "it," but that he'll be interested to see how it plays out.
Here's more from Mitchell ...
On Randle El and why he wasn't effective:
"I think for the return with Randle El for the last few years it was more the fact that Randle El became a starter. And when you become a starter your mindset is - and everyone thinks like this, Devin Hester is the same way - 'Now do I go all out returning punts and kicks or am I trying to save myself for offense?' If a guy is a cornerback who returns punts, 'Do I go all out or save myself for defense?' I saw Randle El in Pittsburgh and in his first year here and when caught the ball he got upfield, he was being fearless. The last two to three years, when he caught the ball I would see him, I would say being lazy.
"I'm not saying he didn't work hard, I'm saying lazy as far as film study and preparation for the game. When I walked on the football field when I knew it was a punt, I went from the sideline straight to where I knew I needed to be. I knew if he kicked 42-44 yards average, I would be 42 yards from the ball. I knew where he was kicking it and I was moving there before he did. When I saw Randle El couldn't field the ball or get to the ball, I knew he didn't do any of it till it was kicked. He didn't go through pre-kick [preparation]. I don't think he was doing it.
"And when he caught the football, his first move was always, he caught it two feet side by side or still backing up. Most returners catch it with one foot back ready to take off and go forward. ... He was no longer fearless. He needed to be healthy for offense, and that messed with his head. ... Teams with successful guys are guys who are dedicated to kick and punt return and other stuff is their second job. If the first job is offense or defense and kick and punt return is the secondary job, you're not going to give the same effort."
On whether competition will help and also on Santana Moss:
"I feel that way. And I think it doesn't necessarily have to be a young guy. I think if you have seven guys competing, then the guys are busting their [behinds] to make sure they're the top guy coming out of it. It can be an older guy looking for way to make themselves be there, a third or fourth receiver. That'd be a better guy. I respect Santana hands down. If they could, every play they'd do it with Santana but he's worth so much to the offense. I worry when he's back there because he gives his all every time. I look at him myself, Deion Sanders, guys that no matter if it's offense, defense or special teams they give 100-percent every time. You know what they're going to give you. They can only take so much...those type of guys you love them but you have to protect them from themselves."
August 10, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories: Santana Moss , Special teams
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