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.
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.”
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