The Redskins put a increased emphasis on bolstering special teams in this year’s draft, particularly with their selections in Rounds 3-7, Coach Jay Gruden said.
“Well, our special teams have not been very good the last couple years and it’s an area that we have to improve,” he said. “You really only improve special teams by improving your depth, and when your depth becomes improved, then your special teams becomes improved.”
General Manager Scot McCloughan, meantime, noted that late round prospects he believed could help on special teams had a special symbol next to their name.
“We took players first for the primary position, but I wanted guys that could for sure come in here and be quality backups, if not starters, and be really good on special teams, be core special teams guys,” McCloughan said. “They were all marked with a certain symbol on the card, and that was very important to me—always will be.”
Among the 10 picks the Redskins made, Gruden said he expects players such as running back Matt Jones, wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Evan Spencer, linebacker Martrell Spaight and safety Kyshoen Jarrett to immediately contribute on special teams, which were better last season after a disastrous 2013 but still have much room for improvement.
“I think these [players] are good fits for us and they’re going to come in and they know on Day 1 that it’s ‘special teams one, position number two.’ That’s the way you crack into the lineup,” Gruden said. “That’s the way you crack into the NFL is by dominating special teams, making your mark in Coach [Ben] Kotwica’s room, and then when your opportunity is called out there at your position, you make the most of it. But, they all have to be good on special teams.”
Gruden described Spencer, a 6-2, 208-pound wide out from Ohio State, as a "demon" on special teams.
"Excellent special team player—excellent, excellent, excellent—and he’s going to make that room better," Gruden said. "A very, very good, positive, tough football player."
As for Crowder, Gruden said he could be the Redskins’ new punt returner. The Duke product averaged 13.4 yards per return in college and took four back for touchdowns.
“I could envision it,” Gruden said, asked if Crowder could be the Redskins’ Wee 1 returner. “He’s been productive at it when he’s had the opportunity. He’s such a good receiver at Duke that they probably didn’t use him as much they would liked to have because he was such a key weapon for them on offense. But he’s the type of guy did a lot for them and he’s got the great, quick first step and he is a natural at punt returner.”
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