By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 6, 2006
The Washington Redskins spent millions again this offseason in pursuit of a championship, setting more spending records for payroll and coaching staffs, but diverted none of it to the kicking and punting game. Veteran place kicker John Hall, hobbled by injuries most of the last two seasons, is being pushed only by Tyler Jones, while third-year punter Derrick Frost, inconsistent in 2005, has only rookie David Lonie behind him in camp.
During yesterday's scrimmage with the Baltimore Ravens at FedEx Field, the first competitive environment for the four men to use their feet exclusively, there were few standouts. Special teams was a small element of this predetermined practice format, but Lonie, who has no NFL experience and comes from Australia, looked shaky during punting drills and was booed for sending one kick out of bounds. Hall missed two field goals in the 11-on-11 portion of the scrimmage, with his accuracy at issue, and although there is still plenty of time to sort out the situation, the early returns were not favorable.
"One for three ain't good enough," special teams coach Danny Smith said of Hall. "But John, I love him. He'll be a great kicker and he's been a great kicker."
Coach Joe Gibbs was asked repeatedly this offseason why he did not acquire proven kickers or punters to challenge the incumbents, and he has defended the starters throughout. Hall, he believes, will prosper on field goals and should remain healthier with others handling the kickoff duties. ("I've got no concerns there," he said of Hall yesterday.)
Hall missed wide left from 46 and 47 yards, however, and neither kick was booming. There was no threat of a blocked kick -- with the teams agreeing not to send anyone forward in these situations -- and ample time to set and follow through. Late in the scrimmage, Smith decided to pull Jones, a standout in NFL Europe, and allow Hall to make a third try, when he connected from 37 yards.
"You're kind of in a bind there," Smith said. "Do you let John try one more and hope that he makes it? Do you let him go for a chance to go oh for three, or do you go with the next kid? But I wanted John to make one, obviously."
The punters had few opportunities, with each team limited to six punts and six punt returns, with no tackling involved. Lonie, an undrafted free agent who has a background in soccer and track and field and did not stumble into punting until college, hoped for a better debut.
"He's got to execute under pressure," Smith said. "It was his first taste so I don't think you can get too high or too low on anything. We'll see if we can develop him from here."
Lonie said: "I was a little shaky out there, mate. It was my first real experience with a new team and new crowd. Now I've really got to get after it this week and show what I can do."
Frost showed enough improvement and promise last year to merit a return engagement, Gibbs has said, and he performed well yesterday.
"Derrick really pounded some things from a punting standpoint," Gibbs said.