- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

Antwaan Randle El acknowledges the Washington Redskins’ punt return unit hasn’t produced much of anything, but he scoffed Wednesday at the notion he’s solely responsible.

“It hasn’t been productive, but it’s not just me catching the ball and having a lot of space to do anything,” he said before practice at Redskin Park. “When I have some room, I can get something done, but that hasn’t happened this year as often as I would like. … It’s not just one guy catching the punt and outrunning guys.”

Randle El’s 3.9-yard average ranks 61st in the NFL, and he has called for 18 fair catches, second-most in the league. Coach Jim Zorn said he anticipates using receivers Santana Moss and Devin Thomas more there Monday night against the New York Giants.

In Sunday’s victory at Oakland, Randle El misjudged one punt, and that decision resulted in an 18-yard roll. He also fumbled away a fourth-quarter return.

“What we’re wanting is ball security more than yards from Antwaan,” Zorn said.

Thomas returned punts as a fill-in for Michigan State and has assumed the kickoff return duties from Rock Cartwright.

“I’m getting there [with kickoff returns],” Thomas said. “I’m still getting a feel for the blocking, but I think I’m doing pretty good.”

Thomas said the biggest adjustment from kickoffs to punts is the trajectory of the ball - kickoffs go end over end, and punts spiral.

Former Redskins punt returner Brian Mitchell said on FM-106.7 The Fan that Randle El is no longer the best option.

“Letting the ball hit the ground as a returner who’s been around eight, nine years - that’s ridiculous,” Mitchell said. “To fair catch as many balls as he does, sometimes justifiable, sometimes not, and when you take the chance to catch one and it bounces off your face mask or shoulder pads, something is gone. … Ever since he became a starter, look at his production.”

Randle El’s best year was a 12.0-yard average in 2003 as a reserve receiver for Pittsburgh. Since he came to the Redskins, his averages have been 8.8, 6.1, 6.5 and 3.9.

Zorn on the future

In a conference call with reporters that cover the Giants, Zorn was asked whether the chatter about his future was affecting his preparation.

“I think it’s a fair question,” he said. “What I try to do is continue to stay the course. … I owe it to our fans, our players, our coaches to keep my concentration and not worry about all the peripheral distractions, especially speculation. …

“This is not the first time that this has happened to a coach in the National Football League. This is something that goes on, and I kind of recognize all that. Some of those things are out of my control, and I try to stay concentrated on things that are in my control.”

Three still out

Fullback Mike Sellers (thigh), cornerback DeAngelo Hall (knee) and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (ankle) continue to inch toward a return. None of them practiced Wednesday, but they were on an adjacent field doing drill work.

“It’s still up in the air,” Zorn said of their availability for Monday night. “It just depends on how far they come along.”

Haynesworth appears to be the closest to returning: He participated in the morning walkthrough and was listed as doing limited afternoon work.

Safety Kareem Moore (ankle) and right tackle Stephon Heyer (knee) were also limited.

Worth the wait

On the active roster all of last year, defensive end Rob Jackson had to deal with the frustration of spending the first 12 weeks of this season on the practice squad.

“I got past that point a long time ago when I first went down there,” he said. “It was out of my hands, so I came to work every day and hoped everything would fall into place.”

Jackson earned a promotion two weeks ago, made a tackle against New Orleans and played 15 snaps at Oakland.

“I felt good running around,” he said. “Being home watching [the road games] on TV, you feel separated from the team.”

Orakpo honored

Linebacker Brian Orakpo was named NFC defensive player of the week after his four-sack, six-tackle performance at Oakland.

The Raiders’ 44 yards lost on Orakpo’s sacks were the most since the NFL began tracking that in 1994.

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