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Redskins' Gruden: 'We've got to flip the script' on special teams

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Redskins' Gruden: 'We've got to flip the script' on special teams

When Jay Gruden took over as the head coach of the Redskins in 2014, he inherited one of the worst special teams units in NFL history. Seventeen games into his tenure, problems in the kicking game remain.

The Redskins' latest special teams gaffe cost them a game. With the Redskins tied with the Dolphins early in the fourth quarter, Miami’s Jarvis Landry took a Tress Way punt, found some room up the middle, put a move on Way, and was gone, 69 yards for the touchdown. That put the Dolphins in the lead at 17-10, which was the final score.

What went wrong? Plenty, according to Gruden. For one thing, Way outkicked his coverage with his 54-yard boot with about five seconds of hang time. But it was more than just that.

“We did have a couple of guys out of their lanes,” said Gruden. “Our gunner got pinned on the outside, he couldn’t get off a block. It’s just a matter of once the ball is kicked, we have to get off blocks better. We’ve got to have some good lane integrity. We had neither. We didn’t get off blocks, we missed a couple tackles down there.”

MORE REDSKINS: WHAT ULTIMATELY LED TO FORBATH GETTING CUT

Last year the Redskins allowed both a punt return and a kickoff return for touchdowns. In addition, they had a punt blocked and that was returned for six points. Washington has not had a special teams return touchdown of its own since 2010 and Gruden is tired of seeing other teams have all the fun.

 “It is deflating,” he said. “We’ve got to flip that script. We have to get some of those. We have to change the momentum in our favor. Seems like the last couple years, the kickoff returns have gone against us, the punt returns have gone against us, the blocked punts have gone against us. We have to start doing that ourselves, blocking some punts, returning some kicks. It’s going to take work and these guys have got to come out and buy into what they’re doing on special teams. I think we’re coaching them up well. We’ve got to coach better and we obviously have got to play better. But we have got to do better on special teams.”  

Getting better in the kicking game obviously is easier said than done. Mike Shanahan talked about it a lot in 2013 and Gruden has paid plenty of lip service to special teams. But even though there has been marginal improvement in special teams since 2013, there still is a long way to go.  

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

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

The Redskin week that was

My weekly look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics on RealRedskins.com and NBCSportsWashington.com.

An offseason blueprint for the Redskins—Should the Redskins focus their free agency money on keeping their own? In addition to unrestricted free agents Zach Brown and Trent Murphy, they need to consider extensions for Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith, and Jamison Crowder. That could chew up a bunch of the approximately $31 million of cap space that they have. They may get some help on the market but most of their improvement should come from the draft and from within.

Redskins offseason will hit warp speed soon—With the exception of the Alex Smith trade, which actually hasn’t happened yet, there hasn’t been much going on with the Redskins. That is going to change soon, check out the post for the calendar and how the events matter for the Redskins.

No mixed messages from Alex Smith—In a radio interview, Alex Smith said that he was “jacked” to be a part of the Redskins. Now, the phrase often repeated here is that you shouldn’t listen to what they say, you should watch what they do. And the moment that he signs the reported four-year extension that he has negotiated with the team, a deal that likely would put him in Washington for the rest of his career, we will see his actions backing up his words. Then we will know.

What we know, and what we think, of the Su'a Cravens situation—This will be a true test of the acumen of the front office. It’s a very tricky situation. The Redskins have to decide if they want to keep Cravens. Should they decide to keep him, there will be a lot of smoothing over of ruffled feelings that would need to be done over and trust in Cravens would have to be restored. If they don’t want him around, they have to make it look like they are willing to go into the season with him in order to be able to trade him. Otherwise, teams may just wait for them to cut him and sign him as a free agent. Again, don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.

Tweet of the week

Quarterback is not the only NFL position with rising salaries. The players teams hire to try to stop opposing QBs, cornerbacks, are getting expensive, too. Bashaud Breeland is a good cornerback, not a great one. His coverage skills are solid, he’s a good team player (if a bit of a hothead at times) and his work ethic is not questioned. For a fourth-round pick who everybody thought left Clemson a year too early, he has done well for himself But he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl and he hasn’t even come close enough to be considered a snub. Breeland has eight interceptions in four years in the league with a high of three in 2016.

The price tag for good at cornerback is likely to be in the vicinity of $10 million per season. And good for him if he gets it. But with the Redskins employing Josh Norman, who has cap hits in the range of $14.5 million-$16.9 million over the next three years, it would be difficult to fit him in. Truth be told, Breeland has probably been destined to leave as a free agent ever since Norman signed his contract in April of 2016.

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) 12
—NFL Draft (4/26) 68
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 204

In case you missed it

  

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Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

The Redskins might try to franchise tag quarterback Kirk Cousins to try to get some compensation for him as he leaves. But Cousins’ camp might not let that happen without a fight.

According to Albert Breer of the MMQB, Cousins might file a grievance if he is tagged, saying that the Redskins would be violating the spirit of the rules regarding the use of the franchise tag. He would be seeking to have the tag voided because the team clearly isn ’t interested in reaching a long-term deal with him given the acquisition of Alex Smith. The tag is supposed to be used to buy time to get an agreement done, not to squat on a player’s rights in order to trade him.

There is precedent for the tag being used in order to facilitate a trade. In 2009, the Patriots tagged quarterback Matt Cassel. They clearly had no intention of keeping him as they had Tom Brady on the roster. But New England pulled it off, shipping Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a second-round pick.

But it is up to the player to object to being tagged and for whatever reason Cassel and his agent went along with the tag and trade rather than fighting for free agency.

It looks like Cousins ’camp won’t go as quietly.

It’s up to the Redskins to make the first move. The window to be able to tag a player opens on Tuesday with the deadline coming on March 6. We will see how things play out after that.

MORE REDSKINS: THE EXPECTATIONS GAME

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