After this 2011-2012 Season, the main coach on the hotseat is not Mike or even Kyle Shanahan… not Jim Haslett… but special teams coach Danny Smith. There’s been a lot of good that has come from him being here, but lately a lot of bad… and worse. Let’s take this time to review how things went with him in charge of the special teams unit this season:
Punting. Sav Rocca has been pretty automatic all season long. At more than one point in the season, he led or was in second place for the most punts downed inside the 20 yard line. Which says a lot about his placement skills, but also a lot about the people working around him.
Place Kicking. There’s been a number of mishaps about Graham Gano, some self inflicted. But just analyzing the fair opportunities he had (fair = good blocking/holding), he’s done a decent job, beating out kicker after kicker to hold on to his job.
Kick Coverage. If you haven’t paid attention to Lorenzo Alexander or Anthony Armstrong flying in your screen on kick returns to make big time tackles, you must be blind. There has been very little of return guys breaking free against this unit on kick returns.
Blocking for Banks. Granted, a lot of kickers have begun to “respect” Brandon Banks’ abilities and have kicked the ball away from him on several occasions, but the times where the ball goes to him, he hasn’t been able to break free once. The guy has a natural instinct for the return man position and unbelievable speed and quickness. But he IS only 150 lbs… maybe. You have to protect the guy. You don’t want to see him get creamed in the middle of a return because the blocking scheme doesn’t work anymore. Figure something else out.
Banks’ Fumbles. Despite the fact that the rest of the unit has to do a better job blocking for him, he has got to do a better job concentrating on the ball during returns. Losing the ball when someone knocks the crap out of you sucks, but is more understandable than fumbling the ball when no one is touching you. Gotta protect the ball better.
Kick Blocking. 5 blocked field goals is not acceptable at all… especially when the majority of them were blocked under 30 yards. These are chip shots that are supposed to be automatic. They shouldn’t be so easily contested by anyone with half a vertical leap. Now I understand that the offensive line depth has a lot to do with this because the same guys are blocking in for FG’s. However, there must be more practice blocking these guys on the kicks. Gano shouldn’t have to explain why he didn’t knock in an extra point or similar field goal.
Penalties. It’s bad enough that your top return guy gets the ball kicked away from him half the time, but when he DOES get the ball, you can’t afford the little bit of yards your poor blocking scheme allows him to have revoked by a hold or block in the back. I know these guys are pros, and they should know better when they step out on the field. But when they make the same mistakes over and over again, is anyone saying anything to them? Or maybe it’s a situational thing that they need to be coached around. Whatever it is, it’s not working. Penalties will not keep your job.
Decision Making. I’m sorry, but that short kick at the end of the Dallas game was absolutely unacceptable. Mike Shanahan had to ask around why the ball was kicked so short then finds out that it was Smith’s idea. Turned out to be a 30 some yard return that landed in Washington territory when the team was in a position to beat the Cowchicks at FedEx Field when the game was on the line. You just CAN’T do stuff like that and expect to keep your family photo on a desk in Ashburn.
All that being said, peace out Mr. Smith. It’s been real.
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