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Kehl’s Return A Boost To Special Teams

Posted Dec 27, 2012

Released by the Redskins in final cuts prior to the season, linebacker Bryan Kehl is back and making an impact for the team during playoff push.

Bryan Kehl is making up for lost time.

After a strong performance in training camp, the veteran linebacker was released by the Redskins during final cuts just prior to the team’s 2012 opener vs. the New Orleans Saints.

Kehl was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs Oct. 3, but was active for just three of the team’s first seven games and didn’t register a tackle.

But when Redskins rookie linebacker Keenan Robinson went down for the season with a torn pectoral muscle after the team’s Week  12 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, Kehl – who was available on the waiver wire – was there for the picking.

Washington re-signed Kehl Nov. 28 and he made an immediate impact five days later when the Redskins played host to the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. The fifth-year Brigham Young product was inserted into Washington’s punt and kickoff units and got his first tackles of the season in the Redskins’ 17-16 victory over the Giants.

“It was fun,” Kehl recalled. “I spent a lot of time with Kansas City, but I was inactive most of the time. When I got here, I didn't have any tackles on the year. That was a big blow to my pride, so I was just trying to make up for lost time.”

The win against the Giants – at the time the third straight for Washington – evened the team’s record at 6-6 and has been the midpoint of the team’s current six-game winning streak. The surging Redskins (9-6) play host to the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) Sunday night, and the winner earns the NFC East Division title and a home playoff game.

Kehl said coming back to the Redskins in the middle of their surge has been “awesome.”

“To come here in the midst of a nice run has just been nice for me, personally,” he said. “As a team, it's just great to mesh. Everybody's just coming together and gelling. September and October is whatever, but November and December is where it counts.”

Kehl – who has spent time with the Giants and the St. Louis Rams – originally signed with the Redskins in April and had a strong showing in training camp and the preseason before he was released among a crowded group of linebackers during final cuts.

Kehl’s best preseason game in burgundy and gold was his final one, in the Redskins’ 30-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had a team-high-tying six tackles, one sack, three quarterback hits, a pass deflection and an interception that he took from the Washington six-yard line to its 49-yard line.

Through the four Redskins preseason games, Kehl totaled a team-best 17 tackles and had two sacks, three pass deflections and that interception. Fellow linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said the team was ecstatic to get Kehl’s playmaking abilities back this season.

“He was one of those guys that in training camp that we thought we'd be able to keep on the team and that we wanted to keep on the team just because his special teams ability and his role to kind of float like I do and play multiple positions,” Alexander said. “We definitely love having him back.”

Kehl’s best regular-season game so far was last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. With Alexander – a 2013 Pro Bowl selection at special teams – taking up double teams on kickoffs and punt returns, a freed-up Kehl was able to make three big tackles in Washington’s 27-20 win.

Kehl said he’s learned a lot about the art of making plays on special teams from Alexander, who leads the NFL with 19 special teams tackles.

“He's the best special teams player in the NFL – hands down,” Kehl said. “It's great to be out there with him and learn from him and give and take.”

Alexander and Kehl are just two parts of an already-talented return coverage unit that ranks fifth in the NFL in punt return average allowed (6.7 yards) and 14th in kickoff return average (23.4 yards). Safety Reed Doughty (18 special teams tackles), tight end Niles Paul (16 tackles) and safety DeJon Gomes and linebacker Chris Wilson (11) have also been special-teams standouts for the Redskins.

“The way I think about it, with the guys we have out there on kickoff and punt, I mean, who can block us?” Kehl asked.

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