“The fancy schemes aren’t the ones that block the punts,” Smith said after Friday’s practice at Redskins Park. “It’s a mental error, a technique error on a player, usually, that causes it. And that’s what happened. Those two plays, they get magnified and ultimately that’s on me. Ultimately, I’m the coach. I’m responsible for it.”
In the Redskins’ season-opening victory at New Orleans, the Saints blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. Then the Rams blocked a punt in Sunday’s loss at St. Louis.
“It’s not Danny at all,” tight end Niles Paul said. “It’s mental mistakes from the players. As long as we get it right, everything will be just fine.”
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, the Redskins’ special teams captain, called Smith one of the league’s top special teams coaches.
“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?”
The two blocked punts come on the heels of last season, when the Redskins allowed a league-high five field goal attempts to be blocked. The ongoing breakdowns have some observers going to Internet message boards to blame Smith.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan joins the players’ support of Smith, saying this week that he signed Smith and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to contract extensions this past offseason and wouldn’t have done so if he didn’t have faith in them.
“Every play is magnified on special teams,” Smith said Friday. “It should be. It’s very important. They are game-changers. They are tendency-breakers. They are momentum-changers. So they’re big plays. And I tell our team all the time, ‘We don’t have a second down to get it right, a third down to get it right.’ On offense, you can get sacked on first down. It can be second and 30. You still have a chance. But special teams, on a fourth-down punt you have no [second] chance. You’ve got one shot to take care of your business.”
The blocked punt in New Orleans appeared to result from Chris Wilson missing a blocking assignment. The block in St. Louis appeared to come after Perry Riley left too quickly to get downfield to try to make a tackle.
Smith did not discuss specifics but said: “It’s nothing about a scheme. It’s nothing about surprises. It really is nothing like that. We had two lapses, and they get magnified. And they are gigantic plays in a game. And you can’t have them, and you can’t allow them.”