- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2008

In his first nine drafts as an NFL special teams coach, Danny Smith said he never pushed his bosses to pick a punter. But with veteran punter Derrick Frost having slumped last season for Washington, Smith advocated for the Redskins to choose the nation’s top punter.

They did, selecting Georgia Tech’s Durant Brooks in the sixth round last week.

The Redskins hadn’t drafted a punter since they took Ed Bunn in the third round in 1993. Bunn never got in a game.

“The timing was right,” Smith said. “We had 10 picks. This kid’s a good player. Derrick’s in the middle of the pack in this league. He’s not a bad punter, and he’s not one of the elite guys. He had an off year. He’s had slumps that he’s come out of. Last year, he didn’t really come out of it. That generated this competition.”

After having a career year in 2006, Frost boomed the ball at the start of 2007 but finished with a 41.0-yard average, 2.9 yards lower than the previous year.

“Our [special] teams are pretty good,” Smith said. “We don’t want to be average at anything. We punted nine times in [the playoff loss at] Seattle, and we didn’t have a 4.5 hang time on any of ‘em. If you line-drive the ball, these premier returners will stick it right back down your throat.”

But while acknowledging Brooks’ big leg, Smith isn’t ready to hand the job to the rookie.

“There are a lot of old guys kicking and punting in this league because there are a lot of young guys with good legs that don’t have game,” Smith said. “They can’t pooch[-punt]. They can’t directional[-punt]. [Brooks is] a powerful guy, and I think he has game.”

Brooks, who averaged an ACC-record 45.3 yards last year, said he has to get more consistent hang time to beat out Frost, who is fired up about the competition for the job he has had for three years.

“I’m not shy about competition,” Frost said. “When people doubt me, I just prove ‘em wrong. For pure competition, you don’t use a sixth-round pick. Obviously there are some doubts about me. I didn’t finish the season the way I started it. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.”

That’s what Smith wants to hear.

“Two years ago, we brought in two punters on a Tuesday [for tryouts] and Derrick took off and had his best year,” Smith said. “Some of us are better with our backs against the wall. Derrick is a fierce competitor. I love coaching the guy. He will work. He will study. He will work out. He will beat himself up. It’s very important to him.”

Golston goes down

Defensive tackle Kedric Golston suffered a sprained right ankle during the morning session and missed the afternoon practice. He won’t be on the field today.

Anthony Montgomery last season beat out Golston, who supplanted Joe Salave’a as a rookie in 2006.

Safety Vernon Fox injured his knee in the afternoon practice, and cornerback Fred Smoot had his right leg cut by a teammate’s cleat. Offensive lineman Jason Fabini and rookie receiver Devin Thomas were excused from the afternoon session for family reasons. Running back Ladell Betts practiced today after turning an ankle during Friday afternoon’s practice.

Offensive line movement

The Redskins cut veteran offensive lineman Kevin Sampson and rookie free agent offensive lineman Shannon Boatman and brought in former Delaware offensive lineman Rich Beverley on a tryout basis.

Longtime right tackle Jon Jansen, recovering from a broken right leg that ended his 2007 season in the first half of the opener, will receive some work at center, where the Redskins don’t have a true backup to Casey Rabach since they didn’t re-sign Mike Pucillo.

Lorenzo Alexander, who played on both lines in 2007, is working only on defense this weekend. However, coach Jim Zorn said that Alexander likely will return to two-way duty later.

Largent on hand

Hall of Famer Steve Largent, Zorn’s favorite receiver from their days together in Seattle and one of his best friends, attended the afternoon practice.

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