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The QB won't matter if special teams don't improve


The QB won't matter if special teams don't improve

The Redskins have done a lot to try to improve the team this offseason. They added free agents and a new coordinator on defense. They revamped the right side of their offensive line and hired one of the best offensive line coaches in the business. The running game will emphasize power. And, in case you haven’t heard, they are opening the season with a new quarterback.

All of these changes could work out well and be undone if the Redskins don’t improve on special teams. According to Football Outsiders their special teams ranked 29th in the NFL last year. A blocked punt helped cost them their season opener against Houston and they gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown in a three-point loss to the Eagles.

But it wasn’t so much the big special teams gaffes that hurt them. It was the poor field position they got after returning kickoffs (21.8 avg, 25th in NFL) and punts (7.2/21st). All things considered (including a lack of takeaways by the defense), they started their average drive on the 25.1-yard line, the second-worst average starting field position in the NFL.

RELATED: DeSean Jackson discusses Robert Griffin III's 'unfortunate situation'

The Redskins aren’t getting off to a good start when it comes to fixing those problems. They allowed a 103-yard kickoff return to the Ravens’ Asa Jackson just before halftime of their preseason game on Saturday. What happened on the play?

“Unfortunately, the kickoff was supposed to go on the other side of the field,” said Jay Gruden. “Kai [Forbath] just pulled it. So everybody was thinking they were covering the right corner and it went to the left corner. It was a line drive and there was no hang time there either. It was just a poor kick by Kai. Then we just didn’t adjust very good.”

Such a gaffe by Forbath is correctable. The losses of special teams stalwarts Adam Hayward, Niles Paul, and Logan Paulsen will be harder to overcome. The three of them played a combined 642 special teams snaps last year.

When Gruden and his staff get down to the business of cutting the roster to 53 over the next few days, special teams will be a prime consideration for the last handful of jobs. He said that if Player A is a little better at a position but Player B at the same position is more of a special teams contributor, B could win the job.

“That factors big-time into our decision making as far as who's making the roster,” he said. “We've stressed the importance of special teams all throughout OTAs and training camp. I think 99 percent of the guys in there know the importance of special teams . . . The rest of them know the importance of special teams and how their roster life depends on the fact that they need to play good specials – whether its kick coverage, whether it's punt, punt return, whatever it is, they have to perform there because you're right, if you're the third linebacker or the fourth linebacker, you better be active on special teams. Same with safety, same with corner, same with tight end, running back, so all those guys, it's very important for them to show on special teams."

So if you see a head-scratching cut or a surprise inclusion on the roster, the reason might not be big-play ability on offense or defense. It could be ability to cover punts and block on kickoff returns.

MORE REDSKINS: Why didn't the Redskins have a quarterback competition?

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 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

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

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:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

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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. 

More Redskins

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.