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Smith: Setting the Tempo On Special Teams

Listen to special teams coordinator Danny Smith on the Redskins Park practice fields, and you believe words are enough to motivate.

"Come on, we've got to block this thing!" Smith shouted to players as they raced through punt-blocking drills. "Let's go! Let's go get it again!"

Smith's special teams practice sessions are always up-tempo. Makes sense. Smith is an up-tempo guy.

Smith was very disappointed in his units in last Saturday's 27-14 preseason loss to the New York Jets.

His kickoff coverage units yielded an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, as well as a 47-yard return. Also, three players were flagged for penalties on punt and kickoffs, costing the team valuable field position.

That's troubling because the Redskins were among the league's best in punt and kickoff coverage last year. The Redskins were ranked No. 2 in punt coverage, allowing just 4.7 yards per return. In kickoff coverage, Smith's units were No. 6 overall, yielding 20.9 yards per return.

Following the Jets loss, Smith and the Redskins' coaches have tried to mix and match players into special teams roles while raising the intensity level in practice.

"We're trying to find those combinations that will work and be effective," Smith said. "The practices we've had have been good and they have been upbeat. I think the players are a little more attuned to detail this week, which is a good thing.

"It's a shame that a loss sometimes forces you to do that. But you learn from losses and you learn from wins. And we just have to continue to get better."

The team continues to look closely at its place kicking and punting situations. Derrick Frost appears to be at the center of it all.

Frost has had a solid preseason as punter, but he is also relied on as a place kicker because coaches want to limit John Hall to field goal attempts. Hall has been slowed by injuries the last two seasons.

Frost's short, line-drive kickoff in the second quarter of last Saturday's game allowed Jets' rookie Leon Washington to get a head of steam and break through a wave of tacklers, en route to his 87-yard touchdown return.

Frost continues to focus on consistency and he says that he needs to work more on directional kicks.

"I do love kicking off," he said. "I'd like to do both, honestly. But it's sometimes hard to get good quality reps at both during practice because you're splitting time."

Frost is competing with undrafted rookie David Lonie for the punting job and first-year kicker Tyler Jones on kickoffs.

It remains a possibility that the team could sign a free agent punter or kickoff specialist in the coming weeks.

Smith also said the team would still consider Hall on kickoffs.

"It's a heated battle right now," he said. "It's preseason and we're going to try and find different combinations of guys who can kick off and guys who can punt. John Hall is always available to do that as well."

Smith added: "We're going to run out of time here in the next two weeks and we're going to have to make some tough decisions."

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