Despite Victory, Team Must Fix a Special Set of Problems

By Jason La Canfora and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 15, 2008

Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith has much to be concerned about following yesterday's 29-24 victory at FedEx Field, with his unit marred by mistakes and rookie punter Durant Brooks and punt returner Antwaan Randle El struggling.

Randle El fumbled one return -- leading to New Orleans' first score -- and he again was unproductive on his other chances. Brooks, a sixth-round draft pick, had his second shaky outing. Brooks muffed the hold on a 30-yard field goal attempt and delivered several line-drive punts, including one returned by Reggie Bush for a touchdown in the second half.

"We've got to punt better," Smith said. "That wasn't an NFL punting exhibition we saw out there. I'm disappointed, and he's disappointed and, yeah, he's got a lot of work to do. He's got to prove that he can punt in this league, and to this point he hasn't proven that."

Few punters are drafted, and the decision to give Brooks the job out of training camp, ahead of veteran Derrick Frost, was met with cynicism by some, including Frost, who immediately signed with Green Bay and is punting for the Packers.

Brooks had two punts in the game, but neither pleased Smith. The youngster also turned too late to look at the snap on the 30-yard field goal attempt, Smith said, thus bobbling the hold.

"It caught him by surprise," Smith said. "It can't catch him by surprise. He's the [darn] holder. He's the one calling for it. It's just attention to detail."

Said Brooks: "I only had two punts, one got ran back, and I mishandled the hold. But I came back and had some good holds, which I was thankful for. My teammates picked me up, and we came back and got the win."

Frost dropped a snap during his game yesterday, and said he sent his best wishes to Brooks. "Take it easy on Durant," he said in a text message to a reporter.

Kelly Debuts

Rookie second-round pick Malcolm Kelly made his NFL debut in a limited role, catching one pass for six yards. Kelly missed most of the preseason because of injury, and Coach Jim Zorn almost left him inactive for this contest.

Kelly still has much to learn about the offense, but getting on the field was a major step forward, he said. His one reception gave the Redskins an early first down when the offense was struggling a bit to find consistency through the air.

"It was good," Kelly said of his debut. "It was third down at the beginning of the game, and I kind of knew they were coming to me on that play. It was good."

Picking Up the Slack

In Zorn's offense, quarterback Jason Campbell is responsible for the protection calls. This is the first season Campbell has had that responsibility, so the offensive line is doing what it can to help him.

On some plays yesterday, center Casey Rabach made a few calls Campbell missed. Offensive line coach Joe Bugel instructed Rabach to make sure the line gets it right to protect Campbell.

"We're a veteran enough line to help pick him up," Rabach said. "Until he gets real comfortable doing it, and he's been doing it for a while, it's something we can do sometimes to help take the pressure off of him."

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