- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2008

As expected, rookie Durant Brooks will be the Washington Redskins‘ punter Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, but indications given after practice Wednesday are that receiver Santana Moss may take some punt returns away from Antwaan Randle El.

A bad hold by Brooks resulted in a hooked field goal from Shaun Suisham, and a bad punt allowed Reggie Bush to score a 55-yard touchdown. Randle El lost a fumble that set up a New Orleans touchdown and has averaged only 4.2 yards a return. Moss hasn’t returned a punt in three years.

The Redskins rarely have gotten a spark from a return by Randle El since they signed him before the 2006 season. Now the team’s No. 2 receiver, he’s on the field for nearly every offensive snap, and special teams coach Danny Smith said that may have a negative impact his production.

“When you’ve got a guy who’s playing [a majority of the snaps], there are times when you need to adjust,” Smith said. “Say we get into a situation where El’s been running a lot of deep routes or crossing routes, then we should use Santana. We have to adjust their load as they go. There’s a common sense factor of who we’re going to use — it’s a feel thing and it’s a situational thing.”

Moss returned punts for the New York Jets from 2002 to 2004 and has an 11.5-yard career average. Smith and coach Jim Zorn haven’t lost faith in Randle El, though.

“Obviously you would have liked to have more production, and I think you’ll see more production,” Smith said. “El’s been doing this a long time, and anybody with his class, the way he works and his attitude, I think you’ll see a difference as the season progresses.”

Randle El has one touchdown in 78 punt returns with the Redskins.

The other special teams issue could loom larger if Brooks struggles again. The sixth-round choice is averaging only 28.3 net yards a punt, which ranks second-to-last among the 33 players to attempt a punt this season. Against the Saints, his 3.62- and 3.40-second hang times fell shy of Smith’s 4.5-second goal.

“I need to see something on Sunday,” Smith said. “He has not punted the ball well. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. There’s a lot of bad punting in the league, and we happen to be in the middle of it, which I don’t like and nobody likes. … We’ve got a young guy, and we’re going to weather the storm and hope he comes out of it quick.”

Said Zorn: “We’re trying to grow with him, not try him out. He’s our punter, and we want him to get better.”

Several don’t practice

The Redskins’ injury report included 10 players Wednesday, but the primary concern is the health of receivers James Thrash and Malcolm Kelly, both of whom sustained ankle sprains against New Orleans.

Also sitting out were linebacker H.B. Blades (knee) and cornerback Fred Smoot (hip), although Smoot participated in individual drills.

Three players who missed the Saints game — safety Kareem Moore (hamstring) and linebackers Marcus Washington (hamstring) and Khary Campbell (thigh) — were limited along with cornerback Carlos Rogers (groin), defensive end Jason Taylor (knee) and linebacker London Fletcher (rib).

Horton fooled

Rookie Chris Horton has joined the long list of players and coaches whom right guard Randy Thomas duped. Thomas told Horton the award for NFL defensive player of the week includes a $100,000 bonus after the safety intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble in his first start.

“I was excited,” Horton said. “I was like, ‘Man, I might be getting some money.’ That was more money than I’ve got now.”

Horton’s brother told him the award included no monetary benefits.

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