Special Teams Are Working To End Field Goal Problems

Holder Derrick Frost reaches for the ball after the Broncos blocked Nick Novak's field goal attempt on Sunday.
Holder Derrick Frost reaches for the ball after the Broncos blocked Nick Novak's field goal attempt on Sunday. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 13, 2005

Ethan Albright, the Washington Redskins' long snapper, doesn't see much in the instant after he snaps the ball on field goals and extra points. He only knows there are arms and legs everywhere, big bodies colliding and strong, large men pushing, pulling and grabbing for leverage.

He also knows the Redskins have to do a better job holding off potential kick blockers as they prepare to face the Kansas City Chiefs and their typically sound and often very special teams Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

In each of the last two weeks, the Redskins have had field goal attempts blocked. Against Seattle, the Seahawks got a huge push up the middle to swat away a 39-yard attempt, but Washington overcame the breakdown to win the game. On Sunday in Denver, on a 38-yard attempt, rookie kicker Nick Novak said yesterday that it was more stretch than push that led to the block -- the long arms of 6-foot-5 lineman Trevor Pryce reached up and knocked down the ball.

Coupled with Novak's 53-yard field goal nullified at the end of the half when Mike Sellers was called for a false start, the Redskins squandered six points in the kicking game and lost their first game of the season by two points.

"Seems like it's something different every time," Albright said of the two blocks. "Denver had tall guys getting right in the gap. To some degree it was the right spot at the right time. On a wet field, a longer field goal is tough to get the ball up, but you can't fault [Novak]. Sometimes, it's just a gotcha."

Still, the Redskins are working this week to correct further "gotchas." Coach Joe Gibbs said on Monday the protections on the two blocks were "soft" and added that "in terms of personnel, or changing the technique, there are a couple of things you can do there. We shouldn't have any blocked, and we've already had two. So it concerns us."

Gibbs said yesterday that special teams coach Danny Smith "went to work on it" and indicated the team "spent extra time on it and I think we'll probably make some changes." He did not elaborate.

Novak, signed before the Dallas game to replace injured John Hall (quadriceps strain), said yesterday, "I'm going to work on it, definitely. I need to get the ball higher at six yards [after the kick]. The guy [Pryce] jumped and got that one. I probably could have gotten it up a little more, but I really thought that was my best hit."

Better than the 53-yarder nullified by the Sellers penalty?

"The 53-yarder wasn't even a good hit," Novak said. "It's in a rainstorm. I'm just trying to hit it real hard. It just stayed straight and went through. The other one [the blocked kick] was better."

Novak and punter Derrick Frost, as well as the Redskins' punt and kickoff coverage teams, will have other major concerns Sunday. Both will be kicking to Dante Hall, the most dangerous return man in the NFL. Only in his sixth season, Hall has 10 career return touchdowns, third on the NFL's all-time return list behind former Redskin Brian Mitchell (13) and Eric Metcalf (12).

"Every time he touches the ball, he's got a chance to go the distance," Denver Coach Mike Shanahan said before the Broncos played the Chiefs last month. "He's just one of those guys you've got to get everybody around him."

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