Quick Links

Do the Redskins need to find new returners in 2016?


Do the Redskins need to find new returners in 2016?

In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

No. 20

Do the Redskins need new returners?

El-Bashir: When Jamison Crowder won the punt returner job, it was widely expected that the pint-sized playmaker would provide the spark the Redskins have lacked for years.

But that didn’t happen. In fact, Jamison struggled to produce the way he did at Duke, where he returned five punts for touchdowns. As a Redskin, Crowder’s return numbers were ugly. In fact, on 30 attempts the rookie averaged just 5.3 yards per—last among qualified returners. His longest return? A modest 16 yards.

Here’s how I see it: Crowder made plays in the ACC. He made plays for the Redskins on offense. Yet, for some reason he didn’t produce as a returner. So, I’d be inclined to keep Crowder (while demanding better decision-making and consistency) and make changes to the scheme and/or the players blocking for him.

I’m less certain about how the Redskins should go about getting more on kickoffs. Last season, Andre Roberts took one back for a touchdown, but his future in Washington seems shaky given his cap hit and disappointing production as a receiver. Meantime, Rashad Ross, the primary returner, also took a kickoff back for a touchdown, but he ranked just 11th out of 13 qualified kickoff returners with an average of 24.4 yards per (boosted, of course, by his 101-yard score vs. the Giants).

I like Ross’ speed and home run ability and, because of that, I'd give him more time to blossom. Remember, last season was his first as a full-time player in the NFL. But given his inconsistency, I’d also expect GM Scot McCloughan to bring in some competition via free agency or the draft, just in case it becomes obvious that change is necessary.

Tandler: One of the hardest jobs that Scot McCloughan has is to try to project future performance. When he looks at a player who was not consistently productive like Ross and Crowder he needs to figure out if they have hit their ceilings or, if given some time things will click.

I think that you have to give Ross some more time to master kickoff returns. You can’t teach speed, as they say, and some patience with Ross may pay off big. There is something to keep in mind here. Since so many kickoffs are pounded through the end zone and because kickoff returns are something that can’t be practiced at anything approaching full speed, Ross has had very little experience returning kicks. His 28 returns last year (perhaps you can add the five returns of his in preseason games to that) are the sum total of his experience.

With Ross, we do have his 101-yard return against the Giants as evidence that he is capable of doing the job and just needs to develop consistency. Crowder, however, had a long return of 16 yards. We haven’t seen much that would give McCloughan confidence that he can get the job done at punt returner as well as he did at Duke (13.4 average, 5 TD’s).

But to be fair, he probably got better blocking when he was with the Blue Devils. Special teams improved considerably in 2015 but punt return blocking seems to be lagging behind. Rarely did he get tackled after a short return only to find out on review later that there was a big opening if only he had taken it.

So they should stick with Crowder, too, but perhaps they should have a Plan B on the roster in case they find that holes are there and Crowder just can’t seem to find them.

25 Questions series

Quick Links

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Free agency frenzy

USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Free agency frenzy

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 17, 40 days before the NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

Redskins and NFL free agency tracker—I started this a week ago today and it grew to 3,500 words. The problem was there wasn’t much to add by the time that free agency actually started at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The legal tampering period or, as I dubbed it to avoid an oxymoron being used, the “permitted tampering-like activities period” was when all of the news happened. By the time actual free agency opened on Wednesday afternoon it pretty much was all over. Thanks to those of you who followed along.

Zach Brown agrees to terms with Redskins, per source—Since Kirk Cousins’ departure was a foregone conclusion, Brown was the Redskins’ most important free agent. His retention provides continuity in the defense and that will benefit both the team and Brown. His contract (preliminary numbers three years, $24 million) showed that the Redskins are willing to invest some money in the inside linebacker spot for the first time since Joe Gibbs brought in London Fletcher to play middle linebacker in 2007.

Report: Kirk Cousins to sign epic new deal with Vikings—We heard you, folks. The collective voice of the fans who visit NBC Sports Washington on a regular basis let us know that you were not interested in a lot of posts about the Cousins saga that was unfolding in Minnesota. So this was one of very few articles on Cousins that we posted even though Cousins posts have been popular, but with the vast majority of traffic coming from out of town. So, you’re welcome. It should be noted that we will write about Cousins in the future but infrequently.

Redskins officially announce 5-year deal with WR Richardson—He was the opening act for the Alex Smith press conference, and he handled himself very well. If Richardson is even moderately successful I think he will be a major fan favorite.  

Tweet of the week

Here is what fans need to know—a team can afford to do virtually anything it wants in free agency in a given year. If they wanted to the Redskins could restructure deals and sign all of their free agents to contracts that have very small first-year cap hits, creating room to sign the Honey Badger or Suh. The problems come in later years when the cap space you pushed back starts to pile up. The Redskins generally do squeeze free agent contracts into relatively small cap spaces. For example, Richardson’s deal average $8 million per year but the 2018 cap hit is just $4 million. But they don’t like to restructure deals to push money back into later years. That created problems during the Vinny Cerrato years.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 30
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 132
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 176

In case you missed it

Quick Links

Bashaud Breeland the latest former Redskin to fail a physical; won't be signing with Panthers

USA Today Sports Images

Bashaud Breeland the latest former Redskin to fail a physical; won't be signing with Panthers

The Redskins had to say good bye to several key players as the 2018 NFL free agency period began.

Cornerback Bashaud Breeland was one of those players.

On Tuesday, Breeland reported agreed to a 3-year, $24 million deal with the Carolina Panthers.

But on Friday afternoon it was reported that Breeland failed a physical, which means he won't be signing with the Panthers, per Panthers reporter Bill Voth.


If this sounds familiar, it's because it is familiar.

Redskins wide receiver Ryan Grant intended on signing a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens. But a failed physical just a day before his introductory press conference meant a voided contract and back to the drawing board.

According to multiple reports, Breeland's failed physical was due to a recent non-football injury. Breeland and the Panthers could still come to an agreement, but the former Clemson star is now back to being a free agent and will have to pass a physical before officially signing with a new team.

According to ESPN's David Newton, Breeland injured his foot on vacation in the Dominican Republic and will need his skin grafted in order to repair the injury.

The Redskins were one of the NFL's most injured teams in 2017, and that trend appears to have extended to the offseason.