Punting Battle: Talking With Coach Smith

I finally caught up with special teams coach Danny Smith after lunch today, after missing him on my last few attempts. I had planned to try to get him to comment in a mildly amusing way on the “heated punting battle” (a la the videos and Durant Brooks’s comments). It didn’t quite work out like that. Instead, I actually got an update on the competition for a roster spot, which certainly works.

So how has training camp been so far for the special teams?

It’s been great. We’ve got good players, fun to be around, and the staff gets along great.

You’ve got one of the two major position battles, between Durant Brooks and Derrick Frost.

It’ll be a battle, it really will. They’re both really good people and they’re both tireless workers, they really are. It’s just a matter of consistency in the long haul.

Well, what do you watch for — and what should a FAN watch for — as training camp goes on?

The biggest thing that gives you an opportunity – most guys at this level have a strong leg, but there’s a lot more to punting the ball than just dropping the sucker and kicking it as far as you can.

The number one thing for us right now, really, is our hangtime. You can’t linedrive the balls against the returners in this league, because they’ll embarrass you. So the question is, what kind of hangtime can we get to allow our protection to get down the field?

Second and third in no particular order are distance and location. You can’t just punt it to the middle of the field and give them two ways to go, and you’ve got to have distance to flip the field.

So how does the competition stand now?

Derrick has had success in this league. Durant hasn’t had the opportunity yet. Obviously we like him or we wouldn’t have drafted him. Derrick has experience in this league, so he’s quite cabable and has proven that. All of us are better when we get competition.

It will really be a heated battle.

All right, let’s talk about that battle, because when you watch some position battles, there’s noise and hitting and popping pads. Is this REALLY that heated?

It is heated in a sense – sometimes it’s more psychological than those other battles, which might make it harder. If it’s physical — and all these guys are physical specimens, so to speak — you can get out there and take out your frustrations on someone, and that sometimes helps.

This is more psychological and mental, so sometimes I think it’s harder. By the same token, it’s very difficult sometimes in, say, a DE battle, because you don’t have the numbers [to determine who’s better].

We’re going to put our numbers on the table – who’s got the hangtime, who’s got the distance, who got the location, is it a plus or a minus. We’re going to put our numbers on the table and then a lot of people will be able to figure out who the best punter is.

Okay. Do they mess with each other, at least?

No, they don’t right now, really at all. You know, not knowing each other coming in, one guy coming in to win a job, the other guy coming in to take that job … there hasn’t been a lot of communication between them, to be very honest. The punter and long snapper and kicker — who the punter holds for — can be pretty tight. It can be a little difficult for a young guy to come in as a specialist.

Last thing, then. How’d you feel about your first field goal tries today?

It was the first time we kicked with the team, and you’ve gotta perform in front of the team. That’s your job. I’m a stickler for execution under pressure, and we talk about it all the time. That’s why everybody out there on the streets thinks they can do this stuff, but they can’t execute under pressure.

We made one and missed one, and we’re expected to make ‘em both. It was just a mishit on one that hit the upright and came out, but Shaun’s gotta make them all the time. You’ve got to perform when you’ve got the opportunity, and I expect him to do so.

*****

After that, Coach Smith had to start getting ready for afternoon practice, so I asked around to get some general special teams info. Here’s what I was told: the consensus in the league is that a punter should consistently average 42 yards in the air and a 4.5 hangtime. That’s what you’re looking for. So if you’re really interested in following this camp battle, pay attention to which guy comes closest to or exceeds those numbers in the preseason games, and that should be all it takes.

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14 Responses

  1. Awesome. Thanks for that update. It’s great to hear these specifics (such as the numbers he’s looking for) that you can’t find anywhere else.

  2. So how does the competition stand now?

    Derrick has had success in this league. Durant hasn’t had the opportunity yet. Obviously we like him or we wouldn’t have drafted him. Derrick has experience in this league, so he’s quite cabable and has proven that. All of us are better when we get competition.

    It will really be a heated battle.

    He should run for office with an answer like that… ;)

  3. Awesome. This is what this kind of blog is all about (or should be about) .. a fan chatting it up with Redskins coaches or players and letting us in on the discussion.

  4. If they’re performance is a ‘push’ in the pre-season games, the x-factor might be holding for extra points and field goals. When it’s a game winning kick on the line do you want a rookie holding for the kick?

    Having a backup QB hold would negate that factor. But it’s a plus in Frost’s column that he is a solid holder and comfortable with Suisham.

  5. If their performance is a ‘push’ in the pre-season games, the x-factor might be holding for extra points and field goals. When it’s a game winning kick on the line do you want a rookie holding for the kick?

    Having a backup QB hold would negate that factor. But it’s a plus in Frost’s column that he is a solid holder and comfortable with Suisham.

  6. Great post! very helpful – would love to see this type of content in the future!

  7. Great post! very helpful – would love to see this type of content in the future … maybe for the wide receivers?

  8. It’s pretty amazing that it could come down to analyzing a chart that shows hangtime, distance and location – plus or minus. I wonder if they feed that kind of data into a computer for a recommendation?

  9. Great job on the interview!!

  10. Great post! Thanks!

  11. Seems like if they used a draft pick–thats going to be your man–So Frost will have to be much better, b/c if its even, then Brooks gets the job to save face on the pick….

  12. @ Matt Terl…

    I am really impressed at how you have turned things around on this blog. I will admit I was definitely doubting your ability after 3 straight days of crashing and burning (I mostly came to the site repeatedly just to read the posts by others cuz I think they’re hilarious).

    The recipe for success as many others have mentioned in the past is keep getting great angles of TRAINING CAMP stories (about players, coaches, etc);

    Then AFTER you report on mostly these kinds of things, you can throw in some pictures of cool cars, helmets, whatever the hell you want to keep things fresh and “different”. That’ll keep fan interest (and your blog traffic) at a maximum.

    Again keep up the good work broski…

    ~”70% of this earth is covered by water…..the rest is covered by SMOOT”

  13. Brother Odell?

  14. Pass The Biscuits… who the hell are you? With your know-it-all complex I am sure Matt really cares that he got your approval. You should call your fraternity buddies, get drunk, get in a fight an get arrested. I am surprised you even took the time, your life must be amazing.

    Matt, keep up the good work! Campbell looked awesome last night. Hail to the Redskins!

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