WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins, trying to figure out what is wrong with their special teams, decided to bring in former Redskin special teams coach Paul Lanham as a consultant and also obtained a new long snapper to free Jeff Bostic for a suddenly increased role on the offensive line.
Guard R.C. Thielemann sprained his left ankle in the Redskins' 30-26 loss to the Rams Monday night, and if he cannot play today against the New York Giants, center Raleigh McKenzie will move to guard, with Bostic moving back to his old center spot.
This is a strange shift of fortune for Bostic, a 29-year-old veteran who had been demoted and passed over several times for openings on the line the past few weeks.
The news was not so positive for Bostic as a special-teams player. He will be replaced on punt snapping by David Jones, a 6-foot-3, 266-pound center from Texas who played for the Detroit Lions in 1984 and 1985, Coach Joe Gibbs said.
It's less likely Jones will take over the placement snapping duty from Darryl Grant, but Gibbs said Jones will practice there, too, before a decision is made.
Stunned by the poor performance of the special teams, Gibbs decided to bring in Lanham, a long-time friend of his, as "another set of eyes." Gibbs said he never before has brought in a consultant during the season. Special teams coach Chuck Banker, in his first year with the Redskins after coaching with the St. Louis Cardinals and Iowa State, said he is "all for" Lanham's visit and is "not worried" about his status with the Redskins.
Lanham coached the Redskins special teams from 1973 to 1977, when they were in their heyday under George Allen. Lanham most recently coached the receivers of the Detroit Lions in 1986 after working as an assistant under Allen with the U.S. Football League's Chicago Blitz and Arizona Wranglers.
"He's coming here as a friend for a couple days to watch what we're doing," Gibbs said in his news conference at Redskin Park. "He's another set of eyes. Maybe somebody else can give us a pointer or two."
If Lanham watched the films of the Redskins-Rams game, he will get an eyeful. The Redskins kickoff coverage team gave up a 95-yard touchdown return by sprinter Ron Brown in the first quarter and their punt protection team gave up a blocked Steve Cox punt inside the five-yard line, leading to another Rams touchdown. That was the fourth time a Cox punt has been either partially or totally blocked this season. It also was the first time Cox has had a punt completely blocked since he became a Redskin Oct. 1, 1985.
Bostic "possibly" played a role in that blocked punt late in the first half. After an earlier snap bounced before reaching Cox, Bostic's snap on the blocked punt was off the mark, forcing Cox to take a couple steps to his right to get it before kicking. Banker said Cox "took a little longer than he normally does" on that punt. Asked if Bostic's snap was a reason for the slower punt, Banker said it "possibly" was.
Gibbs said the team's punt protection is going to be revamped this week, but the changes that will be made basically will be strategic.
"I remain convinced we have the guys to do the job," Gibbs said. "We're not looking at all to make wholesale personnel changes."
Gibbs said his kickoff coverage team made an "excellent effort" on three of five coverages. He did not blame Cox for much of the problems on punt protection, preferring to focus on the whole process, especially the snaps. "I think we would like our whole action back there to be a little quicker. We want to juice it up a little bit."
It's also possible Cox will return to kicking off this week after having that duty taken away from him by Ali Haji-Sheikh, Banker said.
For Banker, who took over the Redskins special teams chores when Wayne Sevier accepted a job with the San Diego Chargers, it's been a difficult few days. "I've had tougher things in my life," he said, "but this is not a real thrill." Banker said that during his tenure as an NFL special teams coach, he had never had a kick blocked during a regular season game, until Monday night.
"Chuck feels awful, like I feel awful," Gibbs said.
The special teams Tuesday were able to do what some thought was the impossible: focus attention on something other than the Redskins' quarterback situation. Doug Williams, who was 24 for 46 for 308 yards, will start against the Giants, Gibbs said. End of quarterback controversy.
Running back George Rogers, who ran for only 19 yards on 13 carries and was barely used in the second half, is not losing his job, Gibbs said.
"George is the guy we'll count on going with," Gibbs said.