Quick Links

Redskins' Kotwica is hopeful of a special teams turnaround in '15


Redskins' Kotwica is hopeful of a special teams turnaround in '15

Ben Kotwica says he’s optimistic about the Redskins' special teams as he enters his second season as unit coordinator.

For one, the returning players have a greater comfort level with his schemes, allowing them to focus more details and less on terminology. Two, he likes the potential he sees in this year’s draft class. And three, his punter’s got one of the strongest legs in the league. 

“A lot of the terminology is familiar to a lot of the guys, so you don’t have to have to spend as much time on the introductory level stuff, in whatever phase,” Kotwica said. “And so you can now get to the graduate-level stuff, as far alignment and technique and responsibility and getting more into the weeds of what you’re trying to do.”

Kotwica made his comments last week at the conclusion of the team's offseason program, which provides assistants like himself a prime opportunity to reinforce fundamentals.

“You have to understand the time constraints [because] when you get into the [regular] season, it’s a lot of group work and a lot of team [practice],” he said. “So what we’ve emphasized more here in the spring is more individual training, getting down to the blocking and tackling.”

The names of the Redskins’ core special teamers should sound familiar. In fact, eight of the top-10 tacklers from last season are back, including Trenton Robinson, Niles Paul, Akeem Davis and unit captain Adam Hayward, who has returned from a leg injury that forced him to miss the final five games.

“Any time you lose a great player like Adam Hayward,” Kotwica said of his units' sluggish finish in 2014, “it’s going to take a bit of a toll on your unit.”

Hayward’s production and leadership are expected to provide a big boost. But so, too, are the additions of safety Jeron Johnson as well as rookies Preston Smith, Jamison Crowder, Martrell Spaight, Kyshoen Jarrett and Evan Spencer.

Last season in Seattle, Johnson finished tied for the lead in special teams tackles with nine. He also had a fumble recovery.

Crowder, meantime, is vying to replace Andre Roberts as Redskins’ punt returner this season.

“J.J. is a good player and has been very receptive to what we’re doing,” Kotwica said, referring to Johnson. “He works hard and I’m encouraged for what he’s going to do for us this year.”

He added: “It’s still early, but I’ve been encouraged. I like the guys that we’ve brought in, not only from what we’ve seen on the field but off the field, as well. The returner, Crowder, has done a nice job of catching the ball. Martrell Spaight has done a really good job. Preston Smith, too. They’ve all contributed. They’ve got the right mindset. So I’m excited to see how that all pans out in 2015.”

Kotwica is also excited about punter Tress Way, who, as a rookie, tied for the league lead in average yards per punt (47.5).

“That’s one of the qualities that he’s got; he’s got a big leg,” Kotwica said. “One of the things that we have to be cautious about—and he knows it—is out-kicking the coverage because he does have such a big leg. We were here the other day, downwind, and he hit one 70-something yards in the air, with over 5 seconds of hangtime. So he’s got that ability. We just have to harness that.”

It's going to be a important season for Kotwica, as well. First-year GM Scot McCloughan retained most of his core players, signed Johnson and targeted special teams help in the draft. Indeed, the pressure will be on Kotwica and his special teams units to take the next step this fall.  

Quick Links

Growing rumors that Redskins will land Pernell McPhee

USA TODAY Sports Images

Growing rumors that Redskins will land Pernell McPhee

Every team in the NFL would love to add to their pass rush, and the Redskins are no exception. The team withdrew its contract offer to Junior Galette, spurring rumors that they were looking elsewhere.

The Redskins recently had linebacker Pernell McPhee in for a visit, and rumors are swirling that the former Bear is close to joining the Burgundy and Gold.

Nothing has been confirmed, but if McPhee does come to Washington, it would be in the hopes that he can provide a boost to the team's pass rush. The linebacker has proven himself capable of getting to the quarterback in his seven seasons in the NFL, recording 31.0 sacks in his career, with 21.5 of those coming in the last four years. He's also forced at least one fumble in each of the past five seasons.

Playing in the DMV again would mark a homecoming of sorts for McPhee, who played in Baltimore for 4 seasons after being drafted by the Ravens in the 5th round of the 2011 draft before signing in Chicago as a free agent.

Quick Links

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—D-line scoop, Alex Smith's big deal

USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—D-line scoop, Alex Smith's big deal

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 24, 33 days before the 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.

Free agency update: What's next for the Redskins on the D-line? The Redskins have been casting out lines for defensive linemen since before free agency officially started but they haven’t been able to reel one in. Part of the issue might be that they know that Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne are likely to be available in the draft. They have to balance spending big on a lineman vs. being able to get one pretty cheap for the next five years.

Redskins make a D-line contract change, gain roster flexibility—Speaking of the D-line, the team negotiated the removal of a salary guarantee for one player to give themselves more flexibility when it comes time to cut the roster down to 53 in September. See the post for details.

Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract—In the words of Joe Biden, this is a big f-----g deal. It showed that the Redskins aren’t afraid to pay a quarterback big money if they think it’s the right guy. It should be noted that whether or not they chose the right guy is something that remains to be seen. Although the post shows that it’s plausible for the Redskins to terminate the deal after three years, I anticipate Smith playing out at least four if not all five years of the contract.

Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign Scandrick—Orlando Scandrick has struggled with injuries the past few years and Redskins fans did not greet the news of his signing with great enthusiasm, to say the least. To point out the bright side, his contract is not pricey by NFL terms ($2.6 million cap hit this year, no guaranteed money beyond a $1 million signing bonus) and from what I have been able to gather it’s possible that change of scenery might give him a boost for a year or two.

Tweet of the week

Well before free agency started, I wrote that the Redskins’ top priorities in free agency should be to get extensions done for Smith, Brandon Scherff, and Jamison Crowder. They should have about $15 million to work with after a few more free agent signings and that would be plenty to get all of those extensions done. And if they do score a big free agent signing, it would be worth it to restructure the contract of someone like Ryan Kerrigan to get them done.

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:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 23
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 124
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 169

In case you missed it