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About That Trick Play…

Posted by Matt Terl on December 22, 2009 – 4:12 pm

Personally, I think they should’ve kicked the field goal. Let me get that out of the way first.

Limping in to halftime after a severe beat-down, knowing you’ll be receiving the second-half kickoff, I say you take the three points, call it a moral victory that ends the shutout and cuts the deficit to a scant three touchdowns, and try to to build on it after the break.

But I will say this: it was a designed play. I’ve seen it work in practice. And it was not nearly as stupid as the TV announcers would have you believe.

If you watch the video above, you’ll hear the announcing team go from giddy anticipation of a go-for-broke, nothing-to-lose attempt from a team that’s been successful at them before to disdainfully scorning. “What is the wide world is that?” play-by-play voice Mike Tirico says, adding, “This is embarrassing” before getting back to the play-by-play.

“I’ve never seen that play,” Jon Gruden froths to Ron Jaworski, in his overcaffeinated way. “I hope I never see it again, Jaws!”

“I’m speechless,” Jaworksi responds. “I … I don’t know what to say.”

And, a few seconds later, Gruden says, “They don’t even protect their kickers here!” Which is an amusing line, but it also fundamentally ignores the concept of the play — a concept that the players involved were defending in the postgame locker room, and STILL defending at the facility today.

“When you run it in practice,” Hunter Smith started, and then paused. “Theoretically, you catch them off guard and they go safe mode and leave me alone, and just make sure I have nowhere to go and nowhere to run beyond the line of scrimmage. And, in some cases, it might work that way. But in their case…”

He didn’t finish the sentence, so I’ll finish it for him: in their case, it didn’t. Read more »

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Practice – A Kicking Competition! Or Not.

Posted by Matt Terl on August 31, 2009 – 5:49 pm

Despite the absence of Albert Haynesworth, Kareem Moore, Carlos Rogers, and Randy Thomas from this afternoon’s practice, the big news was the kicking competition. Each of the two competitors for the placekicker position attempted seven field goals of varying lengths and in various simulated pressure situations. Shaun Suisham made six and missed one; Dave Rayner made five and missed two.

This was, frankly, a pretty inconclusive result. Here’s head coach Jim Zorn on the subject after practice: “It was good,” he said of the competition. “They both made most of their field goals. I thought it was interesting to see the rhythm and the timing. There are some things that will show up, I think. They’re competing hard. Again, we hope they get some kicks in the game so that we can see more. It will be a last minute decision as we go along here because it’s not clear.”

Meanwhile, these fourteen kicks were such a big deal that the media was allowed to stay out on the sidelines a bit later than usual so they could watch, and the two kickers were swarmed as they came off the field after practice.

Problem was, what was presented to the media as something decisive and interesting didn’t have quite the same cachet for the kickers themselves. Read more »

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Sunday, August 2: Hunter Smith, Greatest (Holder) Of All Time?

Posted by Matt Terl on August 2, 2009 – 7:22 am

The kicking competition got off to its official start yesterday, as Shaun Suisham and Dave Rayner attempted field goals for the first time this training camp. Neither of them missed. This may have been because there was no rush, no pressure, and no one else at all on the field.

Or it may be a harbinger of what the kicking game is going to look like this season, no matter which guy wins.

Here’s special teams coach Danny Smith after practice yesterday, explaining what might be the biggest difference in the kicking game this year: new holder Hunter “The Punter” Smith.

“We talk in terms of [Colts kickers] Adam Vinatieri and Mike Vanderjagt, guys in the top two in the history of the league in terms of field goal percentage. Who was the holder? There’s something to be said for that. He may be the best holder in the history of the game.” The assembled media laughed; Smith is a gifted raconteur, and people naturally assumed that this was some kind of a joke. Smith pressed on, insistent. “I mean, that might be true. You could have that argument!”

It was something that had been brought to my attention a couple of days ago, and the numbers can certainly be read to support the assertion. Vinatieri has been largely consistent through holder changes, but when Vanderjagt changed teams (and therefore holders), his accuracy nosedived. And Suisham’s numbers definitely dipped last year when Ryan Plackemeier took over the holding duties.

So I started asking around about Hunter Smith.

“He’s the most accurate holder in North America,” Suisham said. “Well, I can’t say North America. There could be a crafty Canadian somewhere out there. But you know.” Read more »

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Wednesday, May 20: Brian Orakpo, The Ethan Albright Of NCAA 2009

Posted by Matt Terl on May 20, 2009 – 10:24 am

It’s not surprising that Redskins first-round draft choice Brian Orakpo is excited about being on the cover of the Playstation 2 version of EA Sports’ NCAA Football 10 — it’s a clear honor, doubly so since just about everyone in Redskins Park seems to play the college football video game. And he makes that clear in an interview over on ESPN.com’s Gamer Blog:

“I’m a beast on the game, and I’m not just saying that because I’m on the cover,” he says. “I feel blessed to be on the cover of a game I’ve been playing for years…I’m so good, I need to have your job.

“Call of Duty: World at War, Halo, Halo Wars, Madden, NCAA, NBA 2K9…I’m on everything. I’m a huge gamer. That’s why it’s so cool to be on the cover of the PlayStation 2 game. The PlayStation 2 is the foundation of gaming for a lot of people.”

What’s a little more surprising in the interview is learning what Orakpo has in common with new teammate Ethan Albright. Read more »

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Devin Thomas Wears Carolina Blue Shoes

Posted by Matt Terl on May 2, 2009 – 2:58 pm

Devin Thomas was wearing blue shoes at yesterday’s practice, but it wasn’t really his choice.

Some quick backstory, for those of you who haven’t immediately figured it out:

Thomas went to college at Michigan State, a school to which he maintains pretty strong ties — including coming back and helping at their draft-hopefuls’ pro day this year.

The Spartans made it to the finals of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, where they were matched up against the North Carolina Tar Heels. And long snapper Ethan Albright is as proud a Tar Heel as Thomas is a Spartan.

At the time, Albright was enthusiastically pursuing Thomas with an eye to some sort of embarrassing side bet on the basketball game. Eventually, according to Thomas, the two did connect.

“We got a little side bet,” he told me at the time. “I’m not gonna speak on it right now … but he’s gonna have to wear some green when we win.”

A good plan, except that the Tar Heels pretty much dominated the entire game. Nothing much came of the Thomas/Albright discussions, as near as I could tell. A Tar Heels bumper sticker went up in Thomas’s locker, but nothing more.

Then, a couple days ago, a Redskins Park staffer suggested that I might want to look around back of the building, and bring my camera.
Read more »

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Basketball Creates Bitter Rivalry Between Ethan Albright And Devin Thomas

Posted by Matt Terl on April 6, 2009 – 4:20 pm

It would be hard to imagine two more disparate guys than Ethan Albright and Devin Thomas.

Albright is currently the oldest guy on the Redskins roster; Thomas is 45 days shy of being the youngest. Albright came into the league as an undrafted free agent back in 1994 with Miami, and came to the Redskins as a free agent; Thomas was the Redskins’ first player taken in last year’s NFL Draft.

Albright is quiet and workmanlike, best known for doing his job efficiently, consistently, and without error; Thomas is brash, vocal, and has yet to prove himself at his position. Albright is from outside of Greensboro, North Carolina, a city that has been inducted into the Clean Cities Hall of Fame; Thomas is from the suburbs of Detroit (albeit a couple of the nicer ones, which sort of spoils the comparison).

Albright’s nickname is “The Red Snapper,” while Thomas goes by “The Turquoise Leopard.” (That last one might not be true, actually.)

But they’ve got at least one thing in common: both are fiercely loyal to their respective colleges, Albright to North Carolina and Thomas to Michigan State. So as those two teams get set to square off in tonight’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game, Albright and Thomas are getting into it face to face.

Or they would be, if they ever saw each other. Because another way that these two are different is in their workout schedules. Albright prefers the earliest possible session, and is often showered and gone from the facility before Thomas even arrives.

When I caught up with Albright today — again decked out in his non-Tyler-Hansbrough jersey, now with added Tar Heels cap — he was actually waiting to see if Thomas would show up so he could talk a little trash to him. “I’ve been around here every day for two weeks looking for him, and I can’t find him anywhere,” he told me.


By the time I found Thomas — hours later — the two had apparently had a chance to chat, at least briefly. Read more »

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Monday, March 30: Ethan Albright Is Enthused

Posted by Matt Terl on March 30, 2009 – 11:49 am

Ethan Albright doesn’t always love being the object of attention — a fair bit of Casey Rabach‘s footage from being on the road sits largely unseen because Albright is sitting in the background making unkind gestures at the camera.

But this weekend, North Carolina advanced to the NCAA Final Four, so Albright was more than happy to stop and show off his gear. Rabach actually predicted this (once he got done asking me where my umbrella was). “Oh, yeah,” he said. “Ethan’ll definitely want his picture taken. Definitely.”

And he did.

Malcolm Kelly, an Oklahoma product, walked by as we were taking the picture and rolled his eyes at the display.

“Oh, that’s right,” Albright said, “It’s football season again in Oklahoma, isn’t it?” He laughed.

Read more »

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