Special Teams Coming Into Focus

Posted by Brian Tinsman on August 13, 2011 – 1:19 pm

AP Image

Going into training camp, it was a little murky as to who would serve as specialists in the special teams.  Long snapper Nick Sundberg seemed like a lock, but punter, kicker, and the return jobs were up in the air.

This last week has provided ample clarity to the various battles.

Kick/Punt Returner:  I wouldn’t always make this one category, but the same man was dominant in both facets last night.  Brandon Banks had two returns last night for a total of 77 yards.  That made him a bigger offensive weapon in the return game than anyone else on the field last night.

Terrence Austin also played well in limited opportunity, returning one punt for 19 yards.

Kicker: Shayne Graham had one of those days where you wish you could go back to bed and start over.  He missed from 29 and 49 yards, and they weren’t close.  The last time he shanked two kicks in a game, was two years ago in a playoff loss to the Jets that ended his tenure in Cincinnati.

On top of that, he got to watch the second half from the sidelines as his competition hit a Graham-slam, so to speak.  Gano was 3-for-3 from 32, 34, and 45 yards.  Throw in an extra point, and Gano scored a game-high 10 points for the win.

On kickoffs, Gano made the new kickoff rules look foolish, booming all five of his for touchbacks.  Channeling his best Sav Rocca, he launched at least two of those for 75+ yards through the far uprights.

Gano did everything right tonight and sent quite a tele-Graham to his coaches.

Punter: What would a special teams report be without a Sav Rocca mention? Rocca reported to camp only a week ago and did a fine job last night. He averaged a decent 36 yards-per-punt average, but held the Steelers to just one return for 9 yards.  Good showing, and his position is a lock.

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7 Responses to “Special Teams Coming Into Focus”

  1. By reesespieces on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    When Lohmiller kicked, I can remember him silencing kick returns like that, but never 2 through the uprights! Gano’s leg seems stronger now. That was crazy. In my opinion, I feel its a no brainer to let Shayne move on. That way he can get into a camp that could use another kicker. And possibly develop some chemistry with the holder.

  2. By brennsdad on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    I say keep Shayne around if nothing else to motivate Ga-no good from last year to hopefully earn a better nickname this year. I hope Gano fixes his issues that seem to be mental, leg strength was never an issue, I hope to see a young guy like him succeed.

  3. By RussianBreadMaker on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    Did Lorenzo Alexander get any time at middle linebacker last night? I was watching for him and I only spotted him on special teams.

  4. By Blighter on Aug 13, 2011 | Reply

    There *was* one poor choice by Rocca, in my eyes. I couldn’t even tell you which drive it was, but the “Skins were near (if not past) the 50, and had to punt. Rocca sends it straight over the middle where it gets to bounce into the endzone and start the Steelers at the 20. Why not blow it out of bounds? Even if you’re only pinning them at the 15 or so, still better than giving them the reward of the 20. I think the net for that one was in the lower teens…

    That being said, I like GRanocca going into the season. Glad we didn’t just dump Gano last year to let him become the next David Akers.

  5. By REDSKINSALLDAY on Aug 14, 2011 | Reply

    agree with breensdad to keep shayne for the motivation atleast another week. Gano adjustment is colder weather also. hes from pensacola and played n tally, FL. His nickname at FSU was Onions. clutch from distance n touchbacks.

  6. By monkeyhouse on Aug 14, 2011 | Reply

    wondering who is the other longsnapper?

    team definitely needs to bring in another kicker, one game is far from enough to make a decision.

    like rocca, that punt was pretty darn good really, just a bit too much…..wondering what he has left for a fake punt, he is huge!

  7. By Brian Tinsman on Aug 15, 2011 | Reply


    The only other guys that I’ve seen working out at LS is the backup TE Torchia, and I don’t think he hangs around unless Sundberg gets injured.

    Rocca is huge, and he was working on coffin-corner punts today, so I think he’s still rounding into form

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