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Grading the Redskins at the bye: Special teams

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Grading the Redskins at the bye: Special teams

Bye week grades: Special teams

Through seven games, the Redskins rank as one of the NFL’s most inconsistent teams—from week-to-week, quarter-to-quarter, heck, play-to-play. But at 3-4, they’re still in the thick of things as they catch a breather at the bye. It’s been an interesting couple of months, indeed, and over the next few days CSN Mid-Atlantic reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will hand out their first half grades, position-by-position.

Tandler: In the first part of the season it looked like it would be the same old, sorry story for the Redskins special teams as they gave up a game-winning punt return for a touchdown in Week 1 and a tone-setting blocked punt for a safety in Week 3. Since then, however, things have gone much better, in part because the kicking units don’t have to do as much. Kicker Dustin Hopkins, signed in Week 2, hammers almost three-quarters of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. He has been nearly perfect on field goals, with just one miss in 12 attempts and that coming from beyond 50 yards. Punter Tress Way has been adequate but he still has a lot of work to do when it comes to placement and dropping kicks inside the 20. The Redskins do have an onside kick recovery, a 101-yard Rashad Ross return for a touchdown and a punt block for a TD on their ledger but it should be noted that the latter two plays took place at times when the Redskins were hopelessly behind. There’s a lot to figure out for a grade here so I’ll turn to the numbers crunchers at Football Outsiders. They have the Redskins with a special teams DVOA of 1.2 percent, 13th in the league. That’s a little better than average. With the big plays coming in meaningless situations, I can’t go with a B.

Grade: C+

El-Bashir: For the second straight year, the Redskins added a key specialist. Last year, it was punter Tress Way, who went on to lead the league in yards per punt as a rookie. This year, it’s been kicker Dustin Hopkins. Through seven games, Hopkins is 11 of 12 on field goals (91.7 percent, 11th best), including 2 of 3 from 50 or more yards out. He’s also recorded touchbacks on 71-percent of his kickoffs (6th best) and helped convert the first successful onside kick in the NFL this season against Tampa Bay. The coverage and punt protection units, meantime, have been better after allowing a punt return for a touchdown (Miami’s Jarvis Landry) and a blocked punt for a safety (vs. the Giants). The unit has also made some plays of late. In addition to the onside kick recovery, Jeron Johnson blocked a punt in the end zone vs. the Jets and Rashad Ross entered Sunday’s games leading the league in kickoff return yards (400), aided by his 101-yard touchdown return vs. the Giants. There’s still, however, much for Ben Kotwica’s unit to improve upon in the second half now that it seems to have adjusted to life without captains Niles Paul and Adam Hayward, who were lost to injury. One of those areas is the punt return game, where rookie Jamison Crowder ranks 28th (5.1 yards per return). Over the past few weeks, the unit has performed at a B level. But the wretched start drags down the first half grade.      

Grade: C.

Grading the Redskins at the bye:

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Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

The NFL started taking into account a new factor when putting together its schedule this year. The concept is called rest disparity. It stems from a complaint made by the Giants last year. And, of course, when the Giants have a cold, the NFL sneezes and immediately does whatever it takes to cure the cold. 

Here is how Peter King laid it out this morning on the MMQB:

Last year, I heard the Giants were not pleased with their schedule because they felt they were too often playing teams more rested than they were. In consecutive October weeks, they played teams coming off byes, for instance. The NFL calculated a figure for every team based on the number of combined days of rest for their foes or for the team, calculating, for instance, in those two weeks, the Giants were a minus-14 (minus-seven for each of the foes, Seattle and Denver, coming off byes). In all, by my math, the Giants were a league-worst minus-22 in “rest disparity.”

So the schedule makers worked to minimize the rest disparity this year. According to King, the worst rest disparity in the league this year is minus-11. The Giants are minus-eight. 

The question that Redskins fans will have immediately here is if the Giants’ rest disparity was reduced at the expense of the team in burgundy and gold. The answer that will surprise many is no. 

The Redskins rest disparity in 2018 will be either minus-one or zero. The variance is due to the possibility that their Week 16 game in Tennessee will be flexed to a Saturday game (see details here). If the game stays on Sunday, they will be at minus-one in rest disparity. If it gets moved, they will have had exactly as much rest over the course of the season as did their opponents, in aggregate. 

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty, here is how it breaks down. In eight or nine of their games, they will have had the same amount of rest as their opponents. They play one game coming off of their bye, a Monday night game in New Orleans. The Saints play the previous Sunday, giving Washington a plus-seven in days of rest. That is canceled out when they play the Falcons in Week 9 after Atlanta’s bye. 

Due to their Thanksgiving game, they get three extra days off going into their Week 13 Monday night game in Philadelphia. Two weeks later the Jaguars will have those three extra days of rest when they host the Redskins, having played on Thursday in Week 14.

They lose a day relative to their opponents coming off of those Monday night games against the Saints and Eagles. The Redskins get an extra day prior to visiting the Giants in Week 8 as New York has a Monday night game in Week 7. 

So far, that comes to minus-one in rest disparity. That will remain in place if they play the Titans on Sunday, December 23. If the game is flexed to Saturday, they will gain a day of rest on the Eagles in Week 17, zeroing out the rest disparity for the season. 

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

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Clarifying the confusion about the Redskins' Week 16 game at the Titans

Clarifying the confusion about the Redskins' Week 16 game at the Titans

There was some confusion about the Redskins’ Week 16 game in Tennessee when the NFL schedule dropped. The schedule pushed out by the Redskins said that the game date and time are to be determined. Other versions that went out, including the one on NFL.com, says the game will be on Sunday, December 23 at 1 p.m.

So what’s the story? Well, if you’re thinking of making reservations to go to Nashville to watch the game you just might want to hold off for a while. Like, until early November. 

In an under the radar move, the NFL has established flex scheduling for its late-season Saturday games. Here are the details from the schedule press release from Redskins PR:

“Flexibility for Saturday games in Weeks 15 and 16 is also part of the 2018 schedule. In Week 15, there will be two games played on Saturday on NFL Network, with the game times of 4:30 p.m. and 8:20 p.m. to be determined. In Week 16, two of four possible matchups will be scheduled for Saturday. Start times and Saturday games for Week 15 and 16 will be announced no later than following Week 8, with the non-Saturday games to be played on Sunday.”

The way it sets up, if the Redskins and Titans are playing well in midseason there is a good chance the game will be played on Saturday, December 22 at either 4:30 or 8:20. If one or both teams are struggling, the league and networks could choose to flex two of the other four matchups to Saturday. 

This is taking flex scheduling to a different level. It’s one thing shifting a Sunday kickoff seven and a half hours from 1 p.m. to 8:30. It’s another to shift a whole day. The visiting teams can’t make travel arrangements, not knowing if they need to come into town on Friday for a Saturday game or on Saturday for Sunday. Fans who want to travel to the game are in the same boat. 

Of course, if you can afford it, you can just add a day to your Nashville excursion. There are worse things in the world than spending an extra day or two in Music City. 

If you have to wait to make your plans, as the Redskins do, you will find out no later than October 29, which is when Week 8 ends. 

Do you believe in trends? Then you should hope that the game does get flexed to Saturday. The Redskins have won three straight Saturday games, beating the Eagles in both 2014 and 2015 (the latter game clinching the division title for Washington) and the Bears in 2016. 

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