No longer effective
Antwaan Randle El has been demoted from primary punt return duties and all of Redskinsland will join me in a big helllll yes. Redskins head coach Jim Zorn was careful to couch the move in some uncertainty so as not to tip the next opponent, that is just boilerplate, Antwaan has been demoted and DeAngelo Hall has been placed into the lead spot.
This is a good thing if for no other reason than Antwaan has been steadily losing effectiveness at this position to the point where he is hurting the team.
Antwaan's punt return average has continued a general career downward trend even as the number of punts he has fielded has remained steady. After fielding no more than eleven fair catches in a single season so far in Washington, last season Antwaan ballooned to 21 fair catches. So far this season Antwaan has fielded exactly as many punts, eleven, as he has fair catches.
The final straw was game seven against the Eagles two Monday nights ago. Even if you forgive Antwaan for fair catching a punt at the Redskins thirteen and another at the eighteen based on the possiblity the Eagles may have downed the ball even deeper, Antwaan still fair caught one at the nine to ensure awful field position to start, fielded one cleanly at the five and was downed inside the twenty, and of course most harmfully muffed one off his facemask that resulted in an Eagles field goal four plays later.
Now of course there are other factors at play, the opposing punter and coverage and Washington punt coverage have a role in each punt, it has just seemed to me over the past two seasons that you could put an equipment tub out there to catch punts and we would see about the same results.
And let me be clear, this is not simply about Antwaan, this is principally about the coaching. Antwaan's performance has been deteriorating and it is up to the coaches to identify that and find a replacement.
Santana Moss will still be a nice change of pace, he always seems to spark a return, though coach Zorn wisely will keep these to a minimum, even as Santana appears to suffer from the same accelerated decay as tailback Clinton Portis this season he is still the team's only real deep threat and it cannot afford to see Santana get clobbered on a special teams play.
Antwaan Randle El: Reuters Pictures from here.