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Special Teams Practice And The New Wedge Rules

Posted by Matt Terl on August 1, 2009 – 4:39 pm

Special teams coach Danny Smith talked to the media for a while after practice today, so a little more news than usual came out of special teams practice: the punt return competition is open, but incumbent Antwaan Randle El would have to be considered the front-runner and likely starter, possibly with spot appearances from DeAngelo Hall and/or Santana Moss. The kicking competition is legitimate, with Smith trying to figure out the most fair way to divvy up the opportunities in preseason. Hunter Smith is the real deal, and also a great holder. (I’ll have a lot more on the holding thing, along with some other special teams stuff, tomorrow.)

But the actual afternoon special teams practice today was mainly about kickoff and punt coverage. And, in keeping with Coach Smith’s philosophy, it was largely drills. (“I’m a big drill guy and a technique guy,” he said afterward, “so we’re just trying to teach them some drills. We’re putting them into game situations through drills and it really helps guys coming from college, especially a lot of the young guys, because a lot of them haven’t done this type of work.”)

But I wondered about the kick return drills, because they didn’t look all that dissimilar from what I watched last year. And that’s not how I thought it was supposed to be. Read more »

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Saturday Practice – Now With Pads!

Posted by Matt Terl on August 1, 2009 – 1:44 pm

The practices thus far have been relatively mild affairs. Sure, the workload might’ve been enough to destroy any of us normal people, but it was being conducted in shirts and shells — lightweight protective gear, not full pads — and guys were just tapped down rather than being hit.

Today, finally, that changed as the team came out hitting. The first shot was on Devin Thomas coming across the middle, from Fred Smoot, and it all made for a visibly more intense practice than the previous few. (It also made for a LONG practice, as additional reps were added to make up for yesterday’s rain-out. And a HOT practice, because … well, it was hot.)

The quick bullet points on practice today would be:

  • The offensive line is struggling somewhat against the defensive line, to the point where three separate people stopped me and asked if the defensive line is exceptional or if the offensive line was just having a bad day. I think it’s a bit of both, but I also think the offensive line needs time to build cohesiveness as a unit. It’s early, yet.
  • Jason Campbell looks good and in charge, but still sometimes holds onto the ball too long.
  • There’s a furious competition at the bottom of the receiver depth chart, with both Keith Eloi and Marques Hagans making plays, along with Roydell Williams. Not to say that Marko Mitchell and Trent Shelton did poorly, but the other three flashed more.
  • Carlos Rogers left with a minor calf injury, which opened up some more playing time for Justin Tryon. Tryon made the most of the opportunity, making a few impressive plays. “It’s totally different from last year,” he told me afterward. “I feel comfortable. Now I’ve just gotta do it fast. Be easier if the vets keep giving me their reps.” Rogers is not expected to miss significant time, though.

The other big news was that the first-team offense scored two touchdowns in 11-on-11 drills, meaning the first team defense let up two touchdowns. I caught up with Devin Thomas and noted hitter LaRon Landry — who was covering Todd Yoder for one of the touchdowns — to see which unit really walked away with bragging rights. Read more »

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Saturday, August 1: Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright Are Not Planning To Go Anywhere

Posted by Matt Terl on August 1, 2009 – 6:42 am

When training camp and preseason roll around, it’s easy to get seduced by the thrill of The New. To start wondering if a Keith Eloi can convert truck-jumping skills to the practice field. To extrapolate Colt Brennan‘s 36-of-53, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions in preseason into a career as an NFL starter. To clamor for Marcus Mason, Anthony Alridge, and Dominique Dorsey to lock down roster spots and shake up the established depth chart.

But it’s easy to forget, while all that’s going on, that the guys who currently hold positions on the depth chart are working hard also, and they’re really not planning on going anywhere.

“I can’t control what the other guys do,” Rock Cartwright told me. “All I can do is go out and control what I do, be the best I can be and have a great preseason, you know? I don’t make decisions, I just play.”

Ladell Betts reacted similarly. “Every year I take my job seriously ,so I don’t need anybody to ‘push me’ anyway. You know, you’ve got young guys in here who are smaller, but we have completely different styles, our games are completely different. So it’s hard to compare us. They do push us though.” Read more »

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