Although the Redskins haven’t signed many free agents from outside of the organization, there has been a common theme to the few that they have added: they’re strong, experienced special teamers.
Sitting atop that list are safety David Bruton Jr. and linebacker Terence Garvin—a pair of special teams aces that are aiming to contribute on defense, too.
“Those guys are going to help [but] they’re also going to compete for starting jobs,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “I think that’s part of the [reason] they came here. But the bonus is that they’re very good special teams players too, which helps.”
Bruton, 28, is an accomplished and versatile special teamer, having served as the Broncos’ unit captain the past three seasons. During that span, he averaged about six tackles per season while also chipping in with a blocked punt, a fumble recovery as well as a pair of converted fake punts.
Garvin, meantime, ranked among the Steelers’ top three in special teams tackles each of the last three seasons. The 25-year-old's best campaign came in 2014, when he was credited with 15 tackles, which was tied for seventh best in the NFL.
The addition of Bruton and Garvin should go a long way toward offsetting the loss of fullback Darrel Young, who departed via free agency, and safety Jeron Johnson, who was released. Young and Johnson finished first and second in special teams snaps last season.
Overall, though, 13 of the Redskins’ top-15 special teamers in terms of playing time will return in 2016. Two other special teams standouts—tight end Niles Paul and Adam Hayward—are expected to return after missing the entire 2015 season with injuries. The Redskins also signed defensive lineman Kendall Reyes, who played the 10th most special teams snaps among all Chargers last season.
Gruden, speaking at the NFL owners meetings a couple of weeks ago, also mentioned the emergence of second-year corner Deshazor Everett as well as the need to continue building the special teams units, which have shown drastic improvement across the board over the past year.
“Everett is a very good special teams player; he’s going to have to continue to step up and play good special teams,” Gruden said. “But it’s an area that we really have to be serious about finding the right people. Not just adding good wide receivers, we have to find a wide receiver that’s good on special teams also to fill out our 53-man roster but our 46-man [game day] roster.”
Gruden added: “Our fourth corner has got to be a dynamo on special teams, whoever that is. Your third and fourth inside linebacker, they’ve got to be good special teams players. You’d like to have your fourth outside linebacker be good special teams player [and] your third running back, possibly a good special teamer. We’ve got to find those spots. We’ve got to really dial in our search to the players that fit those spots and continue to address special teams.”