The Rock Cartwright Special Teams Report
Back in the early days of training camp, when special teams coach Danny Smith was trying to prepare rookie punter Durant Brooks for the harsh realities of the NFL, he would quiz the youngster on how to react and what to do with the ball should a breakdown occur while holding for a field goal.
Smith would rapid fire off the down, distance and situation, and ask Brooks what he would do if Baltimore safety Ed Reed was flying off the edge of the line, about to break free. Brooks never got the chance to experience that, at least as a Redskin, because he was released well before the Sunday night meeting between Washington and Baltimore, but others will.
Reed's name is a constant in Washington's special teams meetings this week; so is linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo's. Both are capable of game-changing plays, and although Reed, who is dealing with a serious neck issue, doesn't return punts as often as he used, he still makes a significant impact blocking punts (the Redskins have come awfully close to having one deflected the past few weeks).
"You definitely have to respect Ed Reed," special teams captain Rock Cartwright said. "He's one of the premier players in the league as far as punt returners, and he can do a little bit of everything. He has that great up-and-under move on punts, and we definitely have to be ready on punt protection. We're going to have out hands full."
Baltimore blocked a punt two weeks ago against Philadelphia, with Reed's presence on the edge, and all the man power devoted to him, resulting in a huge lane up the gap for linebacker Jameel McClain, an un-drafted rookie out of Syracuse, to block the punt (McCalin has two safeties over the past five weeks).
"Ed Reed is such a great player that you have to take care of him," Rock said. "You may have to double him or even triple him, because he can definitely make guys look bad. He can do some damage to you. We have to be ready for that guy."
Washington's special teams were weak in Sunday's loss, from missed field goals to poor punts to blown chances to down punts deep,
"We had some penalties that we definitely need to get cleaned up," Cartwright said. "I messed up on a punt protection call and they almost blocked it. We can always get better and we're definitely trying to improve. We had a chance to make some plays and didn't do it."
The Ravens have been strong on teams over the years, and most expected the unit to thrive this season under coach John Harbaugh, whose background in the NFL is deepest as a special teams coach. But they have suffered from far too many unnecessary penalties, have not got much from the return game for the most part and have allowed special teams scores against them. Despite those issues Cartwright figures this will be a tough assignment.
"Having Harbaugh now, and Ayanbedejo, they've got guys over there who make plays on special teams, for sure," Cartwright said.
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