The Washington Post

Special teams will be point of emphasis for Redskins on practice field this week

The Cowboys’ Dwayne Harris on his punt return for a touchdown Sunday night against the Redskins (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Repairing their broken special teams will be a major focus for the Washington Redskins on the practice field this week, Coach Mike Shanahan said after Sunday night’s loss at Dallas.

“There will be a lot of emphasis on our special-teams area,” Shanahan said late Sunday night in Arlington, Tex. “Any time you have a game like that, there will be a lot of attention to detail this week.”

Shanahan and several players pointed to the Redskins’ special-teams performance as being primarily to blame for the 31-16 defeat. The Cowboys’ Dwayne Harris had a touchdown on an 86-yard punt return and set up another touchdown with a 90-yard kickoff return.

“Special teams definitely lost the game today for us,” reserve linebacker Bryan Kehl said after the game. “We’ve just got to play better. It [stinks].”

The Redskins overhauled their special teams in the offseason. Shanahan hired Keith Burns to coach the special teams after permitting Danny Smith to leave to become the special teams coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Redskins lost Lorenzo Alexander, a Pro Bowl selection on special teams last season, to the Arizona Cardinals in free agency.

The revamped special-teams units have struggled this season. The ugly performance in Dallas came two weeks after the Redskins, in their last game before their bye week, surrendered a touchdown on a blocked punt and allowed the Raiders to get a first down on a fake punt during a win in Oakland.

The Redskins have failed to get much going in the return game. Rookie punt and kickoff returner Chris Thompson was on the inactive list Sunday night. Even place kicker Kai Forbath has had his issues, being sidelined for three games with a groin injury and missing two of his five field goal attempts after going 17 for 18 last season. Forbath went three for four against the Cowboys.

“I can’t put my finger on it,” Kehl said Sunday night. “We just need guys to just step up and really take pride and ownership. I don’t know what everybody else’s mindset is. But I’ve been in the league for six years and I’ve never been a starter. I take pride in just being a special-teams player and if I step out there, I’m gonna do my best. That’s my mindset. But as a team, we’re not playing very well in that phase of the game. We haven’t all year.”

The Washington Post's Jason Reid analyzes what went wrong Sunday in the Redskins game against Dallas and what they will need when they face the Chicago Bears. (The Washington Post)

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

Redskins fall to 1-4 with a 31-16 loss to the Cowboys | Game summary

The Takeaway: Bye week was not a cure for the Redskins’ woes

Special teams struggles continue | Defense allows 213 yards, but loss stings

Wise: Griffin is going through growing pains | Photo gallery

D.C. Sports Bog: Best and Worst from Redskins vs. Cowboys

Shanahan defends clock management | Kehl, Sundberg to have MRI exams

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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