|08-19-2005, 01:44 AM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Arcadia, CA
Progress up for grabs
Progress up for grabs
Williams has some ground to cover in job as kick returner
By Jeff Legwold, Rocky Mountain News
August 19, 2005
ENGLEWOOD - The Denver Broncos know what Darrent Williams can do. It's what he shouldn't do that they're working on right now.
They are trying to teach their rookie cornerback/kick returner not to run so fast. Not to be so aggressive. Not to try to score a touchdown every time a punt lands in his hands.
They are trying to teach Williams he is not at Oklahoma State University any more.
"It's very natural to me, I love returning punts," Williams said Thursday. "When I get going, I feel like I can score every time. I just need to be more selective now about when I go."
Broncos receiver Rod Smith likes Williams' attitude, and his presence.
"Oh, yeah, he's a guy we definitely need," said Smith, who has returned punts for most of his career in Denver. "He knows that position is important to our football team. He's not like, 'Damn, I got to play special teams.' He looks at it like he's trying to take it to the house every time. But that's just it: The most important thing is that he just be calm and not make a mistake . . . his first job is to make sure he gives the ball back to our offense."
Williams was one of the best kick returners available in the draft in April, an electric player who had nine returns for scores in his career at Oklahoma State - five interceptions, three punt returns and one blocked extra-point attempt.
But, of the 22 career punts he returned for the Cowboys, not once did he wave his arm and take the fair catch. In fact, his fair catch in the second quarter against the Houston Texans on Saturday in the Broncos' preseason opener was the first of his competitive life, he said.
It's no wonder, then, that he averaged a little more than 30 yards a punt return in high school, 17.9 yards a punt return in 2003 at Oklahoma State and 27.7 a return in 2004.
"See, I had a fair catch last week," Williams said with a smile. "I've got the motion down. I know how it works and everything, I just have to get used to it."
The Broncos haven't had a punt return for a score since Smith accomplished the feat in 2003 and haven't had a kickoff return for a touchdown since Deltha O'Neal did it in 2000, so they certainly want the ball in Williams' hands.
They just would like, particularly on a high-risk play like a punt return, for him to learn to use some discretion. That was evident Saturday, when his 14-yard punt return was surrounded by returns of zero, minus-1 and minus-3 yards.
"Guys are just faster," Williams said. "And special teams is a big thing for every team. In college, sometimes they put guys out there to just run down and that's it, but (in the NFL), you've got starters out there, guys who want to make a play out there."
Because Williams always has been faster than those who tried to defend him in high school and college, he also tends to take "peeks" - he looks at the defenders while the punt is in the air, sometimes until the ball almost reaches him.
It's a habit NFL special-teams coaches don't like to see, especially if it leads to fumbles.
"You've got to (peek) a little bit, I think," Smith said. "The coaches don't return punts. You tell them to get back there and I guarantee they'll be jacking it up, looking at what's coming.
"But get a glance, don't look too long because you have to make sure you get the ball."
Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who returned punts as a player with the Chicago Bears and sent current Baltimore Ravens receiver Derrick Mason to the Pro Bowl as a returner in 2000, conducts a special drill every year in training camp with new punt returners.
When a punt is in the air, Fisher will stand upfield and quickly flash one or several fingers just before the ball gets to the returner.
After the play, as they're jogging by, the returners happily will tell Fisher how many fingers he flashed.
Said Fisher: "And I'll let it go all the way through the drill and they're excited, then I'll stop it and say, 'Look, the right answer is, you don't know. You never take your eye off the ball. If you fair catch, fair catch the kick - don't fair catch the coverage. Feel if the kick is high, feel the hang time. Done correctly, you don't need to see the coverage to make the decision.' "
Already in camp this year, Fisher has strapped a bucket to former Oklahoma receiver Brandon Jones and made Jones catch punts with the bucket while his hands are behind his back. Jones had been catching punts at his waist instead of between the jersey numbers.
"And you can't get your elbows together if you catch them at your waist," Fisher said. "He wasn't too excited about the bucket at first, but the third punt stayed in the bucket and he's got a chance to be a good one."
As does Williams. With 4.3-second speed in the 40 yards and quickness in traffic, Williams has been the Broncos' top returner since the team drafted him with the 56th pick.
And he certainly fills a position of need for Denver. Last season, the Broncos' longest kickoff return was 48 yards and their longest punt return was 30 yards - by Smith. They didn't have a punt return longer than 29 yards after September.
By contrast, eight punt returners around the league averaged more than 10 yards a return last season and nine scored at least one touchdown.
"It's just the little things, little quirks, he has to learn," Smith said. "I tell him to be calm and when he gets the ball in his hand and he has that 5-, 7-yard cushion on the defender, then you give the first guy the business. Let Keith (Burns) and those other guys up front take care of the other nine, 10 guys. You make one miss, and you can be gone."
"Oh, yeah, I like it," Williams said. "I'll work on my bad habits and make them good habits. But I want the ball in my hands."
|08-19-2005, 09:42 AM||#2|
The Kranz Dictum
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Tranquility Base
I love Fisher! If Shanny gets hit by a truck I want Jeff to be our man.
|08-19-2005, 11:31 AM||#5|
Oreo Lucian Rockefeller
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Birmingham, AL
that's just evil, tying a bucket to your guy & having his hands behind his back
but i bet it's an effective teaching tool
gotta say i love Darrent attitude alot, he's happy to do anything that'll help the team
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