Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, the Washington Redskins’ special teams captain, said he spoke to other players on the club’s special teams units Monday about the two blocked punts that the Redskins have allowed in two games this season.
Alexander said Wednesday he stressed that players must pay closer attention to details. Alexander defended Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith, saying the breakdowns are not Smith’s fault.
“ I definitely talked to the guys on Monday, just making sure that they know we can’t continue to have mental lapses,” Alexander said. “Danny Smith has done a great job of coaching us up and the things that we are letting through are things that should never happen. It’s no great scheme that the other team is coming up with to confuse us. We just need to get back to the basics, detail our work, protect first, then go cover. We’re great at covering once the ball is up and out. But if we don’t protect first, it doesn’t matter what happens.
“Sav [Rocca] is a Pro Bowl punter and we can’t continue to let this happen. One, he’s going to have a horrible year as far as his net [punting average]. And two, he is going to end up being injured. He’s too good of a punter for us to allow them to do that.”
The Redskins have had a punt blocked in each of their two games. One was returned for a touchdown in the opener by the New Orleans Saints.
Last season, the Redskins had a league-high five field goal attempts blocked.
But Alexander said Smith is not at fault.
“It’s not a coaching issue,” Alexander said. “It’s accountability on the players. It’s not executing. It’s just like anything else: If Robert [Griffin III] goes out there and throws an interception, do you blame Kyle [Shanahan, the team’s offensive coordinator] because he threw the interception? If someone goes out there on special teams, misses a block, and he’s being coached, being taught [correctly], do you blame Danny? No.
“Special teams is one of those nuances that people really don’t understand,” he added. “They just see people flying around. Until you get the nitty-gritty of it and understand everything about special teams, you really can’t appreciate what Danny Smith brings to the table as a coach and a person.”
Alexander called Smith one of the league’s top special teams coaches.
“I’m pretty sure every year in the offseason he’s getting four or five calls of people trying to pull him away from here,” Alexander said. “You just don’t get that from being average or starting to lose it. People just don’t call coaches up like that. The players just need to step up and do their job and we’ll be fine.”
Alexander agreed with Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan’s assessment that opponents will test the club’s punt protection until the team shows it can handle a rush.
“We probably will get a couple more rushes from teams until we cool everybody off in the next three weeks. And then we’ll be fine. But I’m not even worried about rushes. Come on. Bring it. It doesn’t matter to me because I trust these guys. We just had mental lapses and it happened to be back-to-back weeks. And couple that with five blocked kicks last [season] so now it’s a big panic of, ‘Oh, it must be Danny Smith. He’s losing it.’ But you can see already with the field goal block. A good coach goes back and emphasizes things that he might not have emphasized last year, and you can see that already looks 100 times better as far as the penetration that we’re not getting up the middle.”