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Two...yes Two Articles from the Washington Post


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For Redskins, Extra Special Attention

Stock Trying to Build Non-Porous Unit

By Nunyo Demasio

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, August 21, 2003; Page D01

Mike Stock crouched on his right knee near a goal line at Redskins Park, wearing a gray cap, matching T-shirt and a stern gaze.

Punters David Leaverton and Bryan Barker and place kicker John Hall -- the only players on the field -- took turns booting balls to one another as Stock occasionally barked instructions.

Then Stock -- the Washington Redskins' special teams coach -- trudged over to the opposite field, where the rest of the team was running through drills, and struck the same pose.

Stock is searching for a few good men. They don't necessarily have to be special.

The Redskins' special teams unit was one of the worst in the NFL last season, disappointing even on a 7-9 team.

The organization appeared to upgrade the unit during the offseason by signing Hall and kick returner Chad Morton, both former New York Jets. And in stark contrast with last year, Coach Steve Spurrier has given special attention to the unit.

Yet with two preseason games left -- including Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens at FedEx Field -- the unit still resembles last year's laughingstock, as Stock strives to settle on a punter and a coverage team.

The pickings became slimmer after Saturday's 20-13 loss to the New England Patriots at FedEx Field. The kickoff coverage unit was sloppy, tripping over each other and providing gaping holes to allow a 42-yard kick return and a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by rookie Bethel Johnson.

The silver lining is that the unit was mainly made up of players unlikely to make the team, such as wide receiver Scott Cloman, defensive back Jordan Younger and tailback Sultan McCullough.

Hall is the sole player guaranteed a spot on the kicking unit. Nonetheless, Saturday's performance -- replete with five of the team's 13 penalties -- brought back bad memories of last season.

"I don't care if it's preseason and who's on the field," said Stock, his voice still tinged with anger. "We didn't get it done. It's embarrassing. It's not acceptable."

In 2002, the Redskins' special teams unit was ranked next-to-last in the NFL, yielding three touchdowns while losing an NFC-high four fumbles on returns.

How especially bad was the unit? It ranked 29th in field goal accuracy (64 percent) and 31st in net punt average. The punt coverage unit was ranked 28th, surrendering an average of 13.7 yards. The kickoff coverage unit was the least ignominious area, ranking 24th and yielding an average of 22.5 yards.

"The biggest thing about last year's team is we gave up a touchdown on a blocked punt, a punt return and kickoff return," Stock said. "And those are embarrassments and negative to the team's morale during the game. Those things have to be eliminated."

The Redskins have taken steps to spur a reversal of fortune. During training camp, at least one session focused on special teams. And players on the bubble have an advantage if they show ability to help the unit. The NFL's first wholesale cuts occur Tuesday, when rosters must be reduced from roughly 80 to 65. Before Spurrier makes decisions, he will check with Stock on who can contribute.

On Monday, safety Rashidi Barnes was cut because of poor play on special teams against the Patriots. Although Barnes wasn't expected to make the team, the move illustrated Spurrier's no-nonsense approach.

"Even though we're playing a lot of players who are not going to be on the team, they should be busting their tail," Spurrier said. "We're a pretty bad cover team right now and hopefully we'll get better."

During a 12-year span at the University of Florida, Spurrier's Gators averaged 35 points, reducing the importance of special teams. But Spurrier's offensively challenged team in his first NFL season helped highlight the shortcomings of the special-teams unit.

Last year, the Redskins used a potpourri of returners. When Jacquez Green was released, the Redskins used cornerback Champ Bailey. The experiment ended after the Pro Bowler kept dropping balls as if they were greased.

Kenny Watson and Ladell Betts showed promise as kick returners. However, the Redskins hope the acquisition of Morton -- who will return punts and kicks -- will boost the special teams unit. Last season with the New York Jets, Morton averaged 26 yards on kickoffs, second in the AFC and fourth in the league.

However, in the Redskins' first two exhibitions, Morton averaged 20 yards per kickoff return. The 5-foot-8, 203-pounder has performed like a dancer still adjusting to a new partner. Even in practice, Morton's moves haven't been in tune with his blockers.

"We're not even close to where we need to be," said Morton, who returned two kicks for touchdowns in one game last season, becoming the fifth player in the NFL to do so. "But we have good players and we'll get it done. I want to get on the same page well before the first game."

Morton has returned only 48 punts during his three-year career for a 9.2 average. Despite the minimum experience, Morton prefers returning punts.

"It's more of a high," Morton said, alluding to the increased danger. "It's just fun. I'm going to be fearless back there. I don't care about getting hit. I just have to make good decisions."

On the opposite end, Barker, 39, has a tenuous hold on his punting duties largely because of the worst season of his career. Last year, Barker set career lows with an average of 40.1 yards -- worst in the NFL -- and a 30-yard net average (punt minus returns).

Against the Patriots, the Redskins turned the 14-year veteran into a "Survivor" contestant against Brent Bartholomew, with the loser being released. The competition was about as riveting as "Gigli." But Barker was solid enough to make the cut and battle with Leaverton, who was signed last week.

Barker's season ended last year after he suffered an open nasal fracture against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Barker seems almost oblivious to the scrutiny of each punt and declares last season an aberration.

"We had a lot of strange things happen on special teams that I've never seen before," Barker said. "But I came into preseason in the best shape of my life. I feel very confident in my abilities."

What wasn't an aberration for the Redskins was the changing faces of the kickers: In the past eight seasons, the Redskins have used 11, including three last year. Hall made 74 percent of his kicks in six seasons with the Jets. It's nothing special compared with other NFL kickers. But around these parts, the figure is exceptional. (In the past six seasons, Redskins kickers have combined to make 68 percent.)

The special teams unit was so abysmal last season that there was speculation that Stock -- a well-respected coach -- would lose his job. But Stock is back despite a degenerative right hip that makes it difficult to stand for long periods.

The coach had his left hip replaced a few years ago. He delayed surgery during the offseason to scout punters, kickers and returners. Stock -- who takes painkillers to help stay on his feet -- won't have an operation until after the season.

For now, the coach trudges along, searching for a few good men.

"We're not there yet," Stock said.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company



Redskins Trade to Bolster Defensive Line

By Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, August 21, 2003; Page D01

The Washington Redskins, attempting to address their most glaring need, obtained defensive tackle Martin Chase yesterday in a trade with the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints received a seventh-round choice in next year's draft, but that pick would improve to a sixth-rounder if Chase participates in at least 40 percent of the Redskins' defensive plays. Chase, 28, was a backup for the Saints but could contend for a starting job with the Redskins, who had been seeking help for the middle of their defensive line since releasing Dan Wilkinson and losing fellow tackle Brandon Noble to a season-ending knee injury.

"The cost was right," said Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' vice president of football operations. "With some of those other guys, the cost was too high. . . . A lot of times people think you're desperate -- which we're not -- and they want to gouge you. We're not going to be stupid. We're going to be smart. We feel like we can play with the people we have. But if we feel like there's somebody out there that can upgrade us, we're going to make the move."

Chase is expected to be on the practice field at Redskins Park today. The Redskins intend to give him a crash course on their system and hope to have him ready to play at least a little bit in Saturday's exhibition game against the Baltimore Ravens at FedEx Field.

"We think he's a good player and he's going to help us," Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier said. "I don't know about starting, but you like to rotate seven or eight defensive linemen in the course of a game if you can."

Chase spent the past three seasons with the Saints after two seasons with the Ravens, who selected him in the fifth round of the 1998 draft from the University of Oklahoma. He made one start in 13 appearances last season after starting 3 of 16 games in 2001. Chase was credited with 23 tackles last season and, at 6 feet 2 and 310 pounds, could serve as the sort of bulky run-stopper that the Redskins need. He is scheduled to make the minimum salary of $530,000 this season and is eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring.

The Saints would not part with starting defensive tackle Grady Jackson or top reserve Kenny Smith. A deal for Smith might have involved one of the Redskins' backup tailbacks, Ladell Betts or Kenny Watson.

The Redskins continued to try to acquire one more defensive tackle. As of early last night, the Denver Broncos apparently had not ruled out making another attempt to trade Lional Dalton. But Redskins officials said they had given up on that proposed deal after declining on Tuesday to match the trade terms that the Broncos indicated they had lined up with another team. "We didn't want to match the offer that was out there for him," Cerrato said.

The Redskins also remained on the sideline Tuesday as veteran defensive tackle Ted Washington was dealt from the Chicago Bears to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round pick.

The Redskins' starting defensive tackles in practice this week have been Jermaine Haley and Bernard Holsey. The club has struggled to stop opponents' running games while losing its first two exhibition games, but Spurrier said yesterday: "We've got a lot more problems than defensive tackle. Let's don't just think defensive tackle is what's hampering us. It's not."

Noble, who was signed as a free agent in March and penciled in as a starter, suffered three torn knee ligaments and a dislocated kneecap during the exhibition loss to the Patriots last Saturday. The team released Wilkinson on the second day of camp last month after he refused to reduce his salary from $3.5 million to $2 million.

Redskins Notes: Quarterback Patrick Ramsey did some light throwing in individual drills during yesterday's practice. Ramsey, who has a bruised knuckle above the index finger on his right hand, did not participate in team drills but should be ready to start Saturday, according to Spurrier.

"He threw some nice spirals and I said, 'That little bruise on the hand might help you,' " Spurrier said. "He wasn't trying to throw real hard. Sometimes Patrick cuts it loose and it's a little hard to catch. . . . He was taking a little off of it and throwing a real catchable ball."

Said Ramsey: "It actually felt good. I had very minimal soreness, and the ball actually came off my hand pretty good." . . .

Guard Randy Thomas likely will be sidelined Saturday by a sprained ankle. Rookie Derrick Dockery would start in his place at right guard. The Redskins also could be without wide receiver Rod Gardner, who missed practice because of a pulled groin muscle.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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Originally posted by Bufford T Justice

[Chase spent the past three seasons with the Saints after two seasons with the Ravens

This little bit caught my eye. Another former Raven. He knows the scheme that Edwards will employ and thats a good thing.

This also makes me wonder if we are still going after Dalton since he also is an ex Raven andboth could probably start for us.

I dunno, just thinking outloud I suppose.:bong:

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Wow, in the first article how rough is it of them to call out certain players that arent expected to even make the team! That is rough. I wonder why though the three guys they mentioned that probably wont make the team might be the three guys that have been doing the best of all the try out people??

I expect Cloman to make it, as well as Sultan, mainly for special teams. Sultan almost ran that guy down on the kick return. I dont know about Younger.

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A lot of times people think you're desperate -- which we're not -- and they want to gouge you

Vinny Cerrato

Naturally they want to gouge you.., Dan Snyder had a rep. I say, HAD. Not anymore in the NFL (Not For Long). Ok we weren't desperate, but let's just say, "sorely needed" ;)

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