On the Field for Practice – 10/15

Between the unusually large media horde today — apparently a new second/third/fourth string running back and new punter draw more interest than I realized — and the muggy, hot conditions out on the practice fields, it felt like training camp all over again. (Just without the thirty extra players, the second open practice, and the thousands of screaming fans. Other than that, same thing.)

  • The first thing you notice about new punter Ryan Plackemeier is that he’s a much bigger dude than Durant Brooks was. “He looks like he should be playing tuba,” someone said as he walked out of the locker room. (And his new teammates have noticed as well; looking at his 1 jersey, guys were suggesting that maybe it should be 11, or 100, and so on.) The next thing you notice, at least at practice, is that he appears to be a pretty good punter. He boomed a couple, and kicked a couple “Australian” — that is, dropping the nose of the ball to get an end over end effect, “more like a kickoff” than a traditional spiralling punt and useful for pinning guys to the side on closer-in punts. the few comments I overheard seemed generally favorable and impressed with the new guy, so that’s reassuring.

    (Edit to add: Apparently, I was right about Plackemeier’s size being the first thing you notice; Dan Steinberg has a very similar series of observations — and more player quotes — which I hadn’t seen when I posted mine.)

  • The rookie wide receivers got some good activity in. Devin Thomas hasn’t shown much in games besides a startling ability to draw offensive pass interference penalties, and he occasionally comes off in interviews as if he has a bad attitude, but he consistently impresses me with his effort in practice. He lays out for overthrown passes, he runs hard, he blocks and practices hard as a gunner on special teams … I feel like I’ve written this twenty times before about him, but hopefully all of that will start to show up on the field.
  • And Malcolm Kelly made a couple of nice catches in drills, earning some rare praise from Zorn on the practice field. Afterward, Zorn seemed a bit more cautious. “I’m pushing Malcolm Kelly now. We’re gonna find out” if his knee injury will get better or not.
  • Rock Cartwright runs really hard, and I think he’s determined to prove something if he gets the chance on Sunday — which is possible, as Coach noted, “Rock Cartwright could be the first guy in, so let’s not count out Rock.” Marcus Washington agreed, noting after practice, “Rock runs hard, he practices hard, he works out hard … he does everything hard. Even his name is hard. ROCK. He’s a guy you want on your side.”
  • Washington also looked good in practice, on the heels of a good game on Sunday. “I felt pretty good today in practice. I was just glad to get back out there and get involved in practice. There’s only so much you can learn from watching and listening. It’s necessary to get out there and just do these things.”
  • Shaun Alexander looks good. After the negative press he’s gotten over the years, I half expected him to practice wrapped in bubble wrap at a slow walk and to go out of bounds on every play, but he looked quick and engaged. “He’ll be ready to play on Sunday,” said Coach Zorn after practice. He also did acknowledge Alexander’s less violent running style (although, surprisingly, that wasn’t the term he used). “Shaun has an interesting style of running,” he said, explaining that he didn’t always hit the hole with a second effort like Portis and Betts do. “Those are things we’re hoping will grow on him here.” Asked if it was too late to learn such things, Zorn explained that being released and not finding a team tend to make a guy think, and then he shrugged. “The proof will be in the pudding,” he said.

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16 Responses

  1. Nice job as usual Matt.

    I hope Rock get’s out there and makes plays the way we know he can, and Alexander never sees the field. That’s the ideal in my opinon

    I also hope like crazy that Kelly can get over the knee issue, I thought he looked REALLY good in camp before the injuries got in the way.

    And I expect Thomas will be contributing more and more every week, he is already seeing the field more and more, JC and Zorn need to trust him first, and then it will all start clicking.

  2. Mmm … pudding

  3. I think Alexander will be a fine addition for the role we picked him up for. It’s almost as if people have forgotten that this was the league MVP not a short time ago. He’s 31, not 45, but some people would have you believe the latter.

    As for Plackemeier, I was a fan of Brooks when we drafted him (how could you not with his 70+ yard punt in college), but it’s clear that the former is needed on this team.

    I sure hope Durant clears waivers and we can have another punter battle next year, because I do think he has potential to be a great player.

  4. I hope Rock gets a chance to show what he can do. He’s the definition of faithful warrior.

  5. Please no fumble Alexandra

  6. I think I would prefer Rock to be the backup RB, but I must confess I am more than a little “intrigued” about the potential of Shaun Alexander, I think he is more of a TD threat on any given play, than any of the other backup guys.

    Also, we sure need a punter, I don´t mind who that is. But we can´t keep up giving that much edge in field position. That’s too heavy a load for the defense to carry game after game. BTW, I still think we missed out on a much bigger issue of the field position battle, and that is on Special Teams coverage units, we have allowed some pretty big returns all season long. Anyway, that combination short punts+poor coverage will certainly cripple the skins aspirations for a big season

  7. Durant Brooks got what he deserved, I felt we waited too long to get rid of him. Its one thing to punt well in practice but results in game is what matters.

  8. Nice job, Matt. Plack is a big dude, huh. We’ll have to come up with a new nickname for him just like we did for Horton.

    Regarding Alexander and Cartwright, I wrote out the questions I’ve been wrestling with on my blog. Why not Rock, I ask. Or, maybe the question should be, are we looking to trade Betts in the offseason for picks.

    I, too, am more than a bit intrigued by the potential of a healthy and fit Alexander. But, there is more to this than meets the eye. At least, that’s what I think.

  9. Forget who the punter is. Results are what matters. Can anyone name the punter for the Steelers in the ’70s or the Niners in the 80’s? I doubt it.

    The punter on our last SuperBowl squad was Kelly Goodburn and they ain’t naming college awards after him, that’s for sure.

    The greatest punter we’ve had since Sammy Baugh was Matt Turk and he certainly was expendable when he wanted to much dinero.

    Let’s hope the punter problem of 2008 is over and doesn’t even start to resemble the kicker debacle of 2000. (Brett Conway, anyone?)

  10. dont forget about reggie roby… another big dude at punter…

  11. i live in the Northwest and have seen plenty of SA. If anything he is a great teammate and great guy for the community. I think this was a great addition. HTTR

  12. he does fumble the damn football alot though. So shawn if your reading dont fumble!

  13. Agree on the fumble part, keeping the ball is more important than reaching for an extra yard, this aint the west anymore. The East is the Beast.

    Not to be misunderstood, Alexander adds great depth, am happy with signing.

  14. If there is more to the story i hope that it does not involve wanting to make a deal with another team for Betts. Let us not forget he could have seeked another contract for bigger money with another team but did not in order to stay with our Skins. The man has class. And i think he is nice change of pace for our team with CP.

  15. Thanks Matt. I’m really glad Marcus is feeling better. I love to watch this guy play. He brings a lot of emotion to the game and is one hell of a player when injury free.

  16. Love the signing of Alexander. A great solution to a short term problem.

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