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Gruden seeks consistency from the special teams

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Gruden seeks consistency from the special teams

Redskins Coach Jay Gruden says he believes that a rash of injuries—and the lineup juggling necessitated by those injuries—are contributing to the struggles on some special teams units.

“We’d like to get some consistency from a player standpoint out there,” Gruden said.  “We had a pretty good group to start the year and then we had a bunch of injuries. We had guys come in off the practice squad and backups and new guys in key roles over there. We’ve already lost quite a bit of pretty good special teams players, unfortunately.”

Gruden also put some of the onus on the coaches and players, saying coordinator Ben Kotwica and his assistants must do a “better job as a staff to get these guys ready to go” and that current personnel must perform well enough to stay in the same role from week-to-week.

But back to the inordinate number of injuries to key special teamers for a moment.

In the preseason, captains Adam Hayward and Niles Paul were lost for the year to knee and ankle injuries, respectively. If there were two special teams stalwarts/leaders the Redskins couldn’t afford to lose, it was Hayward and Paul; they ranked second and fourth in kickoff and punt coverage tackles in 2014.

The unit also lost Silas Redd, whom ProFootballFocus.com ranked as Washington’s third best special teamer last season, and promising rookie Martrell Spaight. Redd (knee) and Spaight (concussion) are on injured reserve.

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Meantime, injuries to starters in recent weeks have forced other key special teamers, such as Trenton Robinson and Will Compton, to shift responsibilities and take on bigger roles on defense, creating a chain reaction that has reverberated throughout the lineup.

“Guys have had to step up,” Gruden said.

Indeed, significant help likely won’t be arriving from outside of Redskins Park. Hayward, Paul, Redd and Spaight aren’t coming back this season, either. So the challenge for Kotwica and his assistants is to coach up the players who are already here.

Undrafted rookie Terrance Plummer is one of them.

Plummer used poor technique on a block early in the Redskins’ loss to the Giants. The result was a blocked punt, safety and early 2-0 deficit. On New York’s ensuing drive, Plummer, who replaced Spaight on the roster, was flagged for holding on a punt return, backing the Redskins up to their own 6. Six plays and a poorly thrown Kirk Cousins' interception later, Washington was down 9-0. 

“Plummer’s a great example,” Gruden said. “He was on our practice squad not too long ago. He was activated [and] now he’s our starting wingman on the punt and gave up a blocked punt and that holding call. Guys like that, that are on our practice squad, that are in our building that are practicing, they’ve got to be ready obviously because these injuries are hitting us hard right now.”

Gruden continued: “We’ve got to coach [the replacements] up to be ready so when their number’s called then they’re out there in crucial situations, they’ve got to be fundamentally sound. And right now we have not been [sound], so we’ve got to do a better job as a staff to get these guys ready to go. And when the players are out there, they’ve got to make sure they’re ready to go. So, it kind of works hand in hand. But we’ve got to get some consistency, most importantly, from a player standpoint so we have the same guy out there Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, instead of changing every dang week.”

MORE REDSKINS: Report: The Redskins are not seeking to trade RG3

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 25, 17 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Five Redskins who will have to step up in 2018

Originally published 12/26/17

WR Josh Doctson—This list is in no particular order but if it was, Doctson would be right here at the top. The watchword for Doctson is consistency. He makes some incredible catches and then there are throws that he drops or doesn’t quite seem to make enough of an effort to catch. There is promise there. The first-round pick has shown his ability and his teammates say he has a chance to be elite. But the potential must translate into production on the field, week in and week out.  

RB Samaje Perine—There is plenty of chatter about the Redskins’ need to sign or draft a top running back. But a look at this team’s recent history tells us that they are unlikely to invest major assets in the position. That means that Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will have to become a more consistent runner. It’s not all his fault that he hasn’t done much since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11-12; tough defense, offensive line issues, and game score situations have slowed his production. But he needs to be consistently productive in 2018 no matter who he lines up against.

CB Josh Norman—Unless he gets a pick against the Giants, he will go through the year without any interceptions. Sure, they don’t throw his way all that often and INT’s don’t give you the complete picture of his play. But a CB taking up $20 million in cap room needs to get a couple of picks almost by sheer accident. Norman battled some injury problems and if he wants to justify the final two years and $23 million of salary remaining on his contract, his age 30 2018 season needs to be more impactful.

OLB Preston Smith—The third-year player started strong, with at least half a sack in the first five games. And he’s finishing strong, with three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in the last two games. But in between, he had a total of just half a sack in eight games. This follows the pattern he displayed his first two years in the league of being dominant in some games and invisible in others. If he can develop some consistency in his 2018 contract year, he could cash in huge in free agency the following year.

Head coach Jay Gruden—Normally I only include players on lists like this one but if Gruden doesn’t do something to get the Redskins out of their near-.500 rut then nothing else will matter. He needs to change up something, whether it’s pushing the players hard in training camp or perhaps fine tuning his friendly approach to the players. Sure, better luck regarding injuries and a schedule that right now appears to be a bit less challenging will help. But Gruden needs to look at what he can change, too.

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 4
—NFL Draft (4/26) 60
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 196

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197