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Burns Brings ‘Special’ Blend of Success

Posted by Stephen Czarda on February 19, 2013 – 5:44 pm

Kai Forbath

(AP Photo)

Last week, the Redskins filled one of their coaching vacancies with the hiring of Keith Burns as Special Teams Coordinator. He is replacing the departed Danny Smith who took the same position with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Burns bring an ample amount of experience and success with him from his time with the Denver Broncos both on the field and with a headset. Last season as Assistant Special Teams Coach in Denver, he lead a unit that became a  booming sensation blocking punts and multiple return touchdowns.

He reunites with his coach of 11 seasons, Mike Shanahan, in hopes of improving the special teams unit in Washington. During his time as a player, he was the special teams captain for the team’s Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII victories.

Read up on how Denver’s special team’s units thrived during his tenure and how he will be a resourceful tool for the Redskins this upcoming season:

The Denver Broncos secured home-field advantage in the AFC during the 2012 season thanks in large part to the efforts of the special teams unit. This wasn’t a rare occurrence for Denver, however, as the team has consistently ranked in the top half of the league in special teams statistics during Burns’ term.

Just this past week, the Broncos posted a video on their blog highlighting the top special teams plays of the 2012 season. The video package includes four return touchdowns by Trindon Holliday and two blocked punts.

That year was a banner season for Denver kicker Matt Prater. He notched a career-high 133 points, 55 of which came from the one pointer variation.

Since Burns was added to Denver’s coaching ranks, the Broncos have nailed almost 82 percent of the 182 kicks attempted between Prater, Jason Elam, and Steven Hauschka. The trio was almost perfect on extra point attempts as well, successfully hitting 227-of-229 attempts.

In his new position, Burns will have record-breaking kicker Kai Forbath under his wing. Forbath became a revelation of sorts for the franchise after years of spotty kicking displays by a conglomerate of kickers.

He made his debut in week seven against the Vikings and showed both power and accuracy as he nailed a 50 yarder and went 5-for-5 on extra point attempts. He would go on to set the record for most consecutive field goals made to start a career after hitting his 17th straight in week 16 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

While Burns was immensely helpful to Denver’s kickers playing against the elements at Mile High, he may have played an even larger role in the emergence of dangerous return specialist Trindon Holliday.

Holliday spent the first five games of the season with the Houston Texans. During his stint in the Lone Star State, Holliday returned 10 kickoffs for 194 yards and 16 punts for 147 yards.

After being claimed off waivers  Holliday thrived under the tutelage of Burns. He would became a big-play threat each moment he stepped on the field as he returned 11 kickoffs for  358 yards and a touchdown along with 31 punt returns for 334 yards and another touchdown.

Holliday showcased his lethal play making abilities against the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs. In the first quarter, he field a punt on Denver’s own 10 yard line and then bolted down the right sideline for a 90 yard dash to the endzone.

The score was knotted at 21 at the end of the first half and Denver lined up to begin the second half, Holliday received the kickoff inside his own endzone, took off and lit up the Ravens for a 104 yard sprint for six. Without Holliday’s performance, the Broncos wouldn’t have kept the score close.

The Redskins return game will be a key focus of improvement during the offseason. For the second consecutive season, the team did not tally a touchdown fielding kicks and punts. The last punt return for a touchdown came in 2008 when Santana Moss ran one back for 80 yards.

Washington will retain several contributors to the return game including Niles Paul and Richard Crawford. It remains to be seen, however, who will be used as the main specialist this upcoming season.




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