Shanahan 'very confident' in special teams coach Burns

Shanahan 'very confident' in special teams coach Burns
October 14, 2013, 4:30 pm
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Shanahan: "Lorenzo Alexander is not going to show up."

The Washington Redskins’ special teams struggled mightily in their loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night but Mike Shanahan said not to look for any major changes to the units, especially not at the top.

Shanahan defended his special teams coach. "Keith Burns is a very excellent football coach,” he said. “Very capable . . . I feel very confident that he'll get the job done even though he started out a little bit rough."

Burns was a special teams player and assistant coach under Shanahan at Denver. When Danny Smith left at the end of last season, Shanahan brought Burns in for his first shot at heading up the kicking units.

So what might be done to fix the issues?

“Same thing you always do, doing the little things the right way,” said Shanahan. “It's everybody being in tune to doing the little things the right way. Same thing we talked about offense and defense.”

Shanahan suggested that a lack of leadership among the players might be an issue.

“Lorenzo Alexander's not going to show up so somebody's got to take control of those special teams,” he said, referring to the Redskins’ special teams captain last year who left as a free agent during the offseason. “And one guys' got to define himself or two guys have to define themselves. It's us working as a group and it takes just one guy for us to look pretty average.”

Actually, “average” would be an upgrade from the way the special teams performed against the Cowboys. Dwayne Harris returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown and he later returned a kickoff 90 yards to set up another Dallas TD. Meanwhile, the Redskins averaged 3.4 yards on five punt returns and 14.5 on two kickoff returns.

Just one player breaking down can cause a big play. “I think when you play as a unit whether it's offense, defense or special teams to have success everybody has to do their job and if one guy's a little bit off you look pretty average,” said Shanahan.

He pointed to Harris’ big punt return as an example. First, there was an illegal motion penalty that negated a kick that rolled dead inside the Cowboys’ 20. On the re-kick, Bryan Kehl was in position to make the tackle but his knee gave way and Harris got by him.

Kehl of one of two special teams players who were lost for the season. The linebacker, who plays on multiple kicking units, suffered a torn ACL on the play. On top of that, long snapper Nick Sundberg was lost with what Shanahan said was a torn meniscus in his knee. 

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