Redskins punter has team looking for alternatives

Updated: August 30, 2006, 9:38 AM ET
Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins want one person to do three very important jobs: punt, hold and kick off. Less than two weeks before the start of the season, they're hardly exuding confidence in the player who currently holds those titles.

With Derrick Frost's shanks becoming all too commonplace, the Redskins on Tuesday signed Eddie Johnson as a last-minute challenger. Johnson was around for only a few hours -- he was cut after one practice -- but his presence was another wake-up call for the incumbent.

"I just need to play better," Frost said. "I feel like I've had great practices. I just haven't played very good the last two games at all."

This makes two years in a row coach Joe Gibbs has signed a punter during the last week of preseason. Chris Mohr was brought in to compete with Andy Groom last year after Tom Tupa was injured. Groom won the job, but he was cut after two regular season games and replaced by Frost.

Frost went on to average 40.4 yards -- 28th out of 30 punters in the league -- and that was with the benefit of some generous rolls. His inconsistency has returned this preseason, and his 23-yard thud Saturday at New England was another echo of his infamous 7-yard shank from the end zone in 2004 with the Cleveland Browns.

"Derrick needs to be more consistent," Gibbs said. "We need to do a good job of analyzing that whole situation."

The Redskins were aggressive as usual on offense and defense in free agency during the offseason, but the only punter they signed was David Lonie, an Australian trying to break into the NFL at age 27. Lonie was cut Monday, but Gibbs said he doesn't regret not finding a more experienced punter to challenge Frost.

"We thought David was definitely a real talent," Gibbs said. "We thought that was somebody who was really going to compete. In the end, we felt like Derrick won that spot."

But not with a vote of confidence. The team was concerned enough to call Johnson, who hasn't punted in a regular season game in three years. Johnson was a rookie sixth-round draft pick with the Minnesota Vikings in 2003, but he lost favor when he mishandled a snap in three consecutive games.

Johnson spent 2004 and 2005 in training camps but had no invitations this year. He was preparing for an interview in the sales department of a personal training gym in Scottsdale, Ariz., when the Redskins surprised him with a phone call.

"My leg's kind of tired today, so we'll see how it goes," he said.

It didn't go well. He bobbled a snap during a punt drill -- an ominous reminder of his problems with the Vikings -- and wasn't smooth when holding for kicker John Hall. He left Redskins Park with ice on his kicking leg and was cut shortly afterward.

"The special teams coaches thought the guy had some promise," Gibbs said, "so we decided to give him a little work today in practice."

Frost didn't have the greatest day, either, misfiring a kickoff that turned into a dying line drive. He is having to do kickoffs this year to save wear and tear on Hall, who has been plagued by injuries the last two years.

Another challenger could be brought in Wednesday, but right now Frost is all the Redskins have.

"The ball's in my court," Frost said. "I just need to play well."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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