The Washington Redskins played a variation of the West Coast offense Sunday at FedEx Field that we haven’t quite seen before. It was a version of the West Coast offense if an earthquake dropped half the United States into the ocean and the West Coast now started at Lincoln, Neb.
Run and punt. Punt and run. Run and punt. It was as if the three turnovers the Redskins committed in their 19-17 loss to the Rams the week before had frightened Washington coach Jim Zorn so much that he was determined not to lose another game by giving the ball away.
So that made two Redskins very important to the outcome of Sunday’s 14-11 win over the Cleveland Browns at FedEx Field
Clinton Portis did his job, rushing for 175 yards.
But we knew what to expect from Portis. The other guy, though, was given a lot of responsibility for someone who wasn’t even on the team until Wednesday.
Ryan Plackemeier was up to the task.
Plackemeier didn’t remind anyone of Ray Guy (though he did win the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter in 2005, punting 67 times for a 47.2 average at Wake Forest). But he didn’t remind anyone of Durant Brooks, the rookie punter who was cut last week after one final erratic performance against the Rams.
And all it might have taken to change the outcome of Sunday’s game was one shanked punt. Given the fact that the Redskins punted eight times, the odds were likely Brooks would have booted one off the side of his foot for a 15-yarder or so.
Not Plackemeier. The 24-year-old former Seattle Seahawks punter wasn’t outstanding, but he wasn’t a disaster either - reliable enough (he turned out a 37.3-yard average) not to hurt the team.
Zorn believes he found his punter for this season.
“Our punter, for his first go with us this year, was excellent,” he said. “He has a knack for that end-over-end kick that makes the ball die when it needs to down there. His hang time was excellent. There were no shanks. He got the ball off in decent time. He will have a long season with us.”
Still, the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Plackemeier benefited from some good coverage on his punts. He didn’t have a good net average - 28.8 yards - and that was what got him cut in Seattle after his first game yielded a 30-yard average on 11 punts.
But the bar was low following Brooks - simply don’t shank one.
“He had a tough week,” special teams coach Danny Smith said. “He had a workout Monday in Green Bay. He had a workout Tuesday with us. Then he practiced on Wednesday, trying to get on the same page. I think he will be fine. We have to do some things better.”
That is the life of a punter - too many shanks, not enough distance and you find yourself on the audition circuit with new teammates in a new city.