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Tuesday, March 31: A Last Bit From Friday's Red Zone

Posted by Matt Terl on March 31, 2009 – 12:19 pm

Let me return for just one more post to Vinny Cerrato’s radio appearance with Rick “Doc” Walker last Friday, and a topic that I didn’t address in my earlier transcriptions: special teams.

Special teams is, for the moment, where most of the position battles are shaping up. Long snapper Ethan Albright is facing competition, as is kicker Shaun Suisham. The punter position is essentially wide open. And there are even a few possibilities for some change at returner.

So it’s interesting to hear what the Executive Vice President/Football Operations has to say on those subjects.

On the kicker battle:

Cerrato: “The thing what we are going to do, Doc, is we are going to make it competitive. Even at kicker with Shaun [Suisham]. I think Shaun, inside the 40, I mean I think he was like 95 percent. Outside of the 40 is where he struggled.

“What we, well hadn’t mentioned here, when he did have [Derrick] Frost as the holder he was much more consistent than when he had [Ryan] Plackemier, so there is something to go into that also, not to make excuses for him. What he needs to improve upon is his long distance field goal accuracy. Short, inside the 40 he was excellent. He needs to improve upon that (long-range) because he did improve upon his kickoffs.”

A quick interjection: I mentioned when Suisham signed his tender that I had noticed a possible correlation between the change in holders (from Brooks, not Frost, to Plackemeier) and his change in output, but I didn’t give the actual numbers. So here they are:

With Durant Brooks as holder for the first six games of the season, Suisham was 12 of 15 on field goal attempts, or 80%. (He was also 5 of 6 during preseason with a combination of Frost andBrooks.)

In the ten games after Plackemeier took over the holding duties, Suisham went 14/21, or 66% — a fairly notable drop-off. Of course, neither Brooks nor Frost is likely to be doing any holding for Suisham this season, so it remains to be seen if these numbers have any signifance at all.

On the punter situation:

Cerrato: “At punter we had Durant Brooks, who we drafted and, Doc, did a phenomenal job in pre-season. I mean he won the job in pre-season and he kicked great. Then once the season started, whether he couldn’t handle the pressure or what he couldn’t handle, he just couldn’t handle it and we moved on.

“Plackemier was too inconsistent and so we have a couple guys who will compete and we will always be looking. These guys will be the first two to try. It will always be kind of an open competition. If there is somebody out there or if these guys aren’t doing the job then we will look to improve through mini-camp, OTAs.

“We won’t draft another punter.

“The thing about it is, with punters and kickers, they have to go through a few camps to get the feel for it, get the hang of it, whatever it may be. That is kind of where we are at in the kicking game.”

I imagine that “We won’t draft another punter” will make a lot of people very happy.

On the possible competition at returner:

Cerrato: “The thing about it is, we have great coverage teams. We cover well. We return well kicking. Rock was outstanding. We need to improve upon punt returns.

“The thing we did is we picked up in the off-season is we picked up Dominique Dorsey who was the MVP of the Canadian league as a special teamer. Punt returner, kicker, third down guy. Played at UNLV, real fast guy and was great on tape up there in Canada.

“And then we also got a guy that Denver cut, Anthony Alridge, who the year before from the University of Houston, at the combine ran 4.34, at his personal workout ran a 4.22 and he is a third down guy. I talked to Mike Shanahan about him. When he got cut, when he was on the wire, I called him and said Mike, what do you think about this guy. He said, get him. He said he is the fastest guy I have ever seen on the field with the ball in his hands. He was a rookie last year. He got 100 yards against I think Buffalo in the pre-season and then he hurt is foot and they put him on IR the whole year.”

When they signed these guys to futures deals, I referred to both of them as potential bargain Darren Sproles types, and that certainly seems to be the hope. I’ve seen them both around at offseason conditioning, and, while I haven’t seen them running, I can tell you that they are both just as small as advertised.

On incumbent guys, Cerrato also notes that Antwaan Randle El “is definitely going to have the opportunity” at punt returner, while Santana Moss would be a special-situation punt return weapon.

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