Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Washington Redskins "Special" Teams

Boy, the amount of fun I can have with that one... huh? Special...

You know, when we moved to Jim Zorn, players wanted to retain Danny Smith because he was fiery, a Joe Gibbs guy, and he got good production out of his players.

When the team struggled to get production out of Randle-El, it was on him, not Smith. When Santana Moss broke his first return in years against the Lions, people praised Smith even though Moss did ALL the work on that return.

Smith's big claim to success? His kick and punt coverage units. Not to mention, his ability to get solid kick return production out of a guy like Rock Cartwright.

Well, when the team shifted from Zorn/Cerrato to Allen/Shanahan, I begged that Danny Smith be let go. The reaction? Every Redskins fan wanted to crucify me because Smith was a Gibbs guy, players loved him, and kick/punt coverage was solid. My counter? We don't block punts, we don't block field goals, we don't get return TD's, and we get our punts and field goals blocked.

But the Redskins retained Smith, and fans were lucid and happy... not me.

The first year under Shanahan, it was much of the same. Punter after punter, a blocked FG, and lackluster performance on returns. But Smith still had excellent kick coverage (2nd in the league) and punt coverage.

Shanahan's second year, things got terrible. Sav Rocca was one of the better punters in the league, kick coverage was second in the league again (20.8 yards per return with a couple 30+ yard returns and a lot of returns from 5 yards deep), but 4 blocked field goals and very poor return numbers (and blocking).

So now my voice gained some traction. There were some people willing to consider parting ways with Smith, but we wanted to blame Brandon Banks, Graham Gano, Nick Sundberg, and role players on special teams return units.

Admittedly, Brandon Banks had poor blocking on returns. The blocking schemes were as poor as Rex Grossman's INT ratio. Brandon Banks also didn't display the greatest vision or decision making. But he still managed to get a couple big returns in despite all that, so something about Brandon wasn't all bad, right?


Like I said, the Redskins allowed just 20.8 yards per kickoff return, and the average starting field position if you take away touchbacks was the 17 yard line. That's three whole yards inside the 20 yard line that touchbacks land you at. So when the Redskins waived Gano in favor of Billy Cundiff, they did so in order to get more touchbacks, lose 3 yards, and get what they felt was a marginally better kicker inside 40.

Nevermind that Gano was 31 of 41 last year with 4 blocks, one of which you can argue was his fault for sure, while the other three were horrible blocking in the trenches. Billy Cundiff's numbers weren't much greater than Gano's. All he had to his benefit was his ability to put it through the endzone on kickoffs. So you sacrifice 3 yards for equal production on field goals.

Yes, Cundiff has to go, but he's just another spoke in Danny Smith's wheel. Danny Smith must be held accountable for his input on the Cundiff situation, and his horrible performance in all areas outside of kick coverage (which is nowhere near as good this year as the previous two).