Redskins

Redskins

For most of this year, the Redskins have been just OK on special teams. They had not made any game-changing plays, but they had not had any big plays made against them.

That changed on Thursday—the bad part, not the good part.

The Cowboys were leading 10-0 in the second quarter but the Redskins were hanging around.

Then rookie Ryan Switzer fielded Tress Way’s line drive 55-yard punt, got through the first wave and was gone, 83 yards for a touchdown that essentially ended the Redskins’ season.

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That wasn’t the only FUBAR, as Jay Gruden called them, on special teams (Google it if you don’t know what it is). He listed the punt that Jamison Crowder fumbled and a Dallas kickoff that Maurice Harris fielded right near the sideline, a kick that almost certainly would have gone out of bounds, giving the Redskins great field position.

Not a one-game problem

While the special teams gaffes were more glaring in this game, the Redskins have not been good on special teams all year. They are 24th in the league in special teams DVOA per Football Outsiders. And that was before the Dallas game; that ranking is likely to drop a few notches when they crunch the numbers again Tuesday.

The punting game seems to be at the heart of the problem. The Redskins are averaging 5.0 yards per punt return. Crowder, who has 18 of the team’s 20 returns, is averaging 5.1 yards per return, 29th and dead last in the NFL. The lost fumble was his third on a punt return this year.

 

The Redskins’ punt coverage has left something to be desired as well. While Switzer’s return was the first TD they have allowed, they have given up an average of 12.3 yards per return, 31st in the NFL. Way’s net punting average is 37.5 yards, also 31st in the league.

Injury problems trickle down

Not that the Redskins need to have excuses made for them, but the injuries that have wreaked havoc on the starting lineup have had ripple effects down on special teams.

“Last night we had to dress eight offensive linemen and that takes away from somewhere,” said Gruden when asked about the injury effect on special teams. “We only dressed three safeties and one of them is D-Hall [DeAngelo Hall] who doesn’t do much on special teams. Then Mo Harris got hurt early in the game, which was going to be a special teams player for us. We were down to three receivers. So we were kind of short in a lot of departments there.”

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Some are wondering if special teams coach Ben Kotwica will survive the poor performance of his players. Making a change there would seem to be a rash decision. He came to the Redskins in 2014. The previous year, the special teams were historically bad, last in DVOA by a large margin. By 2015 they were sixth in DVOA and last year they were 13th. This year is more an aberration than the norm. Kotwica didn’t suddenly forget how to coach.

Still, the problems have been persistent all year and they finally jumped up and bit the Redskins in Dallas. There isn’t a whole lot the Redskins can do in the remaining four games besides finding someone, anyone, to take punt returns off of Crowder’s plate (perhaps promoting Keenan Reynolds from the practice squad) and perhaps finding some additional wild men to handle coverage duties.

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.