After Debut, Horton Is No Longer a 'Who?'

The Washington Post's Jason Reid outlines the special teams issues that almost cost the Redskins the game in Sunday's victory over New Orleans. Video by Jason Reid/The Washington Post
By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shortly before kickoff against the New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins safeties coach Steve Jackson pulled aside rookie Chris Horton, who would make his first NFL start because strong safety Reed Doughty had flulike symptoms.

In the FedEx Field locker room, Jackson and free safety LaRon Landry told Horton the game would not be like what he had experienced in the preseason.

"Coach Jack and I told him: 'Look, the speed is totally different now. You've got to go out there and really ball,' " Landry recalled. "He said: 'Don't worry about this. I got this. I'm good. I'm good.' That's what he kept saying. You know what? He was right."

Horton, who played briefly in a season-opening loss to the New York Giants, was sensational in his debut as a starter, intercepting two passes, being credited with two solo tackles and recovering a fumble in Washington's 29-24 victory.

The performance earned NFC defensive player of the week honors for Horton yesterday.

"I feel truly blessed to have the game that I did last Sunday," Horton said in a statement released by the league. "My coaches prepared me and had enough confidence in me to give me this opportunity. I give the credit to my teammates who forced those turnovers and put me in a position to make plays."

His second interception of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, in the fourth quarter, all but sealed the Redskins' first victory of the season and the first win for rookie head coach Jim Zorn.

"He had a tremendous day out there," Landry said. "He did everything I thought he would do."

Horton, selected in the seventh round from UCLA, is the first Redskins rookie with two interceptions and a fumble recovery in the same game since Brig Owens in 1966, according to the team's public relations office.

Landry and Horton, both reared in Louisiana, played against each other "since high school, and I've been following him throughout college," Landry said. "So when Reed went down, and an opportunity presented itself to him, I thought he would take advantage of it. He made the best of it."

If healthy, Doughty is expected to be back with the defensive starters Sunday at home against the Arizona Cardinals. After his impressive performance in Week 2, however, Horton has earned a bigger role on defense, Zorn said. "It's incredible knowing that we can have depth like that in case a starter goes down," Landry said. "This guy stepped in here and knew everything he needed to do."

Brooks: 'I Know I'm on the Line'

After his poor performance against the Saints, rookie punter Durant Brooks figures his job could be in jeopardy if he struggles again this week.

"I know I'm on the line," Brooks said, "with probably guys coming in here and working out if I don't have a good game. Who knows what'll happen?"

Brooks, given the job after battling veteran Derrick Frost in the preseason, had a rough game, averaging 33 yards -- with a net average of only 5.5 yards -- on two punts. Brooks's poor second punt late in the third quarter contributed to Reggie Bush's 55-yard touchdown that gave New Orleans a 24-15 lead. Brooks also botched a hold on a short first-half field goal attempt that place kicker Shaun Suisham missed.

Special teams coach Danny Smith told Brooks he has to "do better," Brooks said. "I know what I did, he knows what I did, [and] he knows it was a bad game. I've got to come out and have a good game and show improvement."

Brooks, a sixth-round pick from Georgia Tech, won the Ray Guy Award as college football's top punter in the 2007 season. Brooks had a 40.6-yard net average as a senior, and a 42.8-yard average on 13 punts -- of which five were downed inside the 20 -- in the preseason.

"It's very difficult," Brooks said. "You have to wait a week for another game to play good. It's a good thing we have practice all this week to get a lot of punts in, a lot of work. Once I get going again, I think I could put it behind me."

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