- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2009

Khary Campbell led the Washington Redskins in special teams tackles four years running. James Thrash was always counted on to make the proper play for assistant coach Danny Smith’s highly regarded unit.

But when Campbell balked this offseason at a contract offer he considered too low and Thrash was let go in the wake of a career-ending neck injury, the usually hyper-kinetic Smith didn’t panic. He knew H.B. Blades and Reed Doughty were ready for bigger roles on his units.

“Khary and James were good special teams players, and they knew what we do and how we do it,” Smith said. “They had perfected their skills. H.B. and Reed are good players and good people. They work. They study. It’s important to ‘em. They lead by example.”

The 5-foot-10, 242-pound Blades, a sixth-round selection in the 2007 draft, has returned to the backup middle linebacker role he held as a rookie. He started five games on the strong side for the injured Marcus Washington last year.

The 6-1, 205-pound Doughty, a sixth-rounder in 2006, is playing more than expected on defense, having taken back the starting strong safety spot he lost to Chris Horton last October before his season ended after just four games because of a back injury.

“They’re the same guy with two different body types,” Smith said. “They like to hit. They’re two tough dudes. They want to get on the field any way that they can.”

Heading into Sunday’s game with Kansas City, Blades leads the special teams with 13 tackles, and Doughty is second with nine. Despite allowing two kickoff returns of more than 30 yards to Tampa Bay’s Clifton Smith in Week 4 and a critical 55-yarder to Carolina’s Kenneth Moore last week, Washington ranks second in the NFL to Houston in covering kickoffs after finishing fourth last season.

Blades and Doughty have led a major turnaround on punt coverage. A year after having the NFL’s fifth-worst unit and surrendering two touchdowns, the Redskins rank third and haven’t allowed a return longer than 15 yards.

“People think special teams is a bunch of crazy guys running downfield, but there’s a lot of preparation and film study,” Blades said. “If you learn how to read things and what they’re trying to do to you, you can set yourself up to make a lot of plays. We lost Khary, and somebody had to pick up the slack. I’m finding more ways to make plays.”

So is Doughty, who like Blades, barely survived the final cuts as a rookie.

“Even though I’m not a captain, I feel like a leader on special teams,” said Doughty, who was taken off the return teams when he was elevated to the starting lineup. “I want to be accountable. I want to be someone the younger guys can come to with a question because they know I know what I’m doing. But at the same time, you can’t talk without producing. It’s about making plays, and I think I’m doing that.”

Daniels to practice

Defensive end Phillip Daniels, who tore his right biceps at Carolina, sat out again Thursday but plans to practice Friday in hopes of playing Sunday.

“I can’t be as physical as I want to be, but at the same time I know that what I give on Sundays could be a lot more than a young guy who might not know the defense as well as I do,” said Daniels, who’s in his 10th year playing for defensive coordinator Greg Blache. “Some people say I’m crazy, but I know my team needs me.”

Offensive tackle Chris Samuels (neck) and punter Hunter Smith (groin) remained sidelined. Defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth (ankle) and Cornelius Griffin (elbow) were limited. Running back Clinton Portis (calf) took short yardage and goal-line work.

“It’s getting better every day,” said Griffin, who didn’t play Sunday but said he’s more likely than not to return against the Chiefs.

Landry the menace

Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe can’t forget his four years as a teammate of Redskins safety LaRon Landry’s at LSU.

“He’s a pretty mean guy on and off the field,” Bowe said. “He’d hit you in walkthrough.”

Told of Bowe’s remark, Landry smiled and said, “I used to do all kinds of crazy stuff.”

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