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Brooks Continues To Struggle

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rookie punter Durant Brooks has been under fire much of the season for his erratic output, leaving him to think about fighting to keep his job. After his struggles Sunday, his job security probably remains week-to-week.

Brooks, a sixth-round pick in April, has become more consistent holding for field goals, but too often lacks distance and hang time on punts. Twice teams have returned punts for touchdowns against Washington, and both times Brooks was the primary culprit with short and low punts against elite return specialists (Reggie Bush of the Saints and DeSean Jackson of the Eagles).

The Redskins rank last in the NFL in gross punting average and next to last in net punting average.

"We needed a lot on that punt" that was returned Sunday by Jackson, special teams coach Danny Smith said. "We've got to punt the ball better, simple as that. Short punts with no hang time will get you killed, and that's what happened again. We've got to punt far better.

"He's a typical rookie. He does that and then comes back with a 49-yard punt with a 4.7 hang time, and the guy fair-catches it at the 15-yard line. And really that's where our punting is right now, two great extremes on two back-to-back punts. That's a phase of the game we're going to have to fight through with him, I guess."

Smith said he is pleased with place kicker Shaun Suisham and his returners and special teams units, but continues to evaluate the punting game. Brooks has mused about punters competing for his job, and some on the team said they believe backup quarterback Todd Collins might be in line to work on holding duties at practice.

Coach Jim Zorn said he needs to see more from Brooks, but added "we're not totally displeased with him," and he's not "in such a hurry to make a quick" decision on the punter. Zorn also pointed out several times how well Brooks did in the victory over Dallas.

Griffin Has Shoulder Sprain

Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin was the only significant injury yesterday and had an MRI exam on his left shoulder. Zorn said Griffin has a sprain, and the team will "try to get him ready" for Sunday.

Zorn said he did not have an update on linebacker Marcus Washington's hamstring. Washington was a last-minute scratch Sunday, but Washington said he believes he can play this weekend.

Washington, slowed by recurring hamstring injuries the past two seasons, said he sat out Sunday's victory over Philadelphia "just to rest it a little more and make sure. I didn't [regress] or anything like that, but it still wasn't totally there. Instead of going out there, playing with the pain and trying to fight through it, I just wanted to maybe get it as close to 100 percent as possible."

Cornerback Shawn Springs (calf) expects to play as well, while tackle Stephon Heyer (shoulder) is unsure if he will be able to practice tomorrow.

Springs said he may be limited a bit in practice tomorrow but expects to be practicing fully by the end of the week.

"I'm gonna be out there this weekend," Springs said. "As good as we played without me. I might be coming off the bench, but I'm playing." . . .

Rookie wide receiver Malcolm Kelly played sparingly after finally coming back from a knee injury, but his knee is swelling again, so his status will be evaluated through the week. . . .

Jason Taylor continues to try to come back from his calf injury and aims to do more in practice this week.

"He will try to rev it up, I know that," Zorn said of Taylor. . . .

Zorn was asked several times during his news conference if veteran Jon Jansen has played well enough to regain his starting job in Heyer's absence, but the coach did not address the question directly. He continues to praise Heyer's pass-protection ability and said he would take the decision down through the week as he assesses Heyer's health.

The running game has been more powerful and diverse with Jansen, and the longtime starter has been solid in pass protection as well, but Zorn seems to prefer Heyer.

"He wasn't being punished. We just felt like Stephon Heyer was the guy that could give us more solid protection in the passing game," Zorn said. "And I still think that."

Saunders to Make His Return

Rams offensive coordinator Al Saunders said yesterday he's looking forward to returning to FedEx Field. He said he's happy to see quarterback Jason Campbell and the Redskins playing well and believes the team is building on a foundation that was put in place during Joe Gibbs's second coaching go-around with the franchise.

"You always like to see things continue," Saunders said in a telephone interview. "I'm thrilled for Jason Campbell and the rest of the guys on offense. The thing Joe did was bring together a group of high-character, great-work-ethic guys. To see Jason come back from his injury and maturing like that, it's great to see. I said when I got there that there was no limit to what he could do. With all the offenses he's been through, he's able to process information quickly, break it down to things he can understand and apply it on the field. I'm just thrilled for him. He's a true professional."

Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report.

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