Since General Manager Scot McCloughan was hired in early January, he’s been busy retooling the Redskins’ roster via free agency and preparing for the 2015 draft. So far, he’s received mostly positive reviews. But his work is far from done. In the coming weeks, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine 25 issues that must be addressed as the offseason kicks into high gear.
Can the Redskins further improve their special teams in 2015?
Although Redskins fans have likely tried to completely forget the 2013 campaign, they surely remember how awful the special teams performance was that season. In fact, the unit was 70 percent worse than the team that ranked 31st, according to the DVOA metric used by Football Outsiders. Last year, the kicking units were merely bad, but not historically horrible. They “improved” to 29th in the NFL. That’s commendable, we suppose, but it’s not anywhere close to where the Redskins need to be if they want to be a contending team. Can they take another, bigger stride on special teams in 2015?
Tandler: In this series we have looked at if the Redskins should get a new kick returner and we have discussed if they should seek an upgrade from kicker Kai Forbath. As of right now it’s the mediocre status quo at both of those positions so it’s hard to see where any improvement is going to come from in those areas. Bruce Allen had the right idea last year when the signed veteran linebackers Akeem Jordan, Darryl Sharpton, and Adam Hayward to bolster the coverage units but injuries derailed the season for all three and only Hayward remains under contract. We have seen no such signings this year. It’s a positive that gunner Niles Paul re-signed with team and Trenton Robinson, who led the Redskins in special teams tackles, is also going to be back but, again, where will improvement come from? Perhaps another year of working in special teams coach Ben Kotwica’s system will help them perform more effectively. But right now it’s hard to see them even improving to mediocre in the kicking game. They have a long way to go until the special teams improve to the point where they are a positive factor that actually helps them win games.
El-Bashir: The Redskins indeed made some moderate strides on special teams last season. But, as Rich pointed out, they can’t be satisfied with improving from downright awful to occasionally adequate. They’ve got work to do. The unit features some decent building blocks in Robinson, whose 15 special teams tackles was tied for seventh in the NFL last season, Paul and Hayward. Nick Sundberg is a solid, reliable snapper. Tress Way, who led the league in average yards per punt as rookie, has the potential to be a Pro Bowler if he works to polish his game. Kai Forbath is a mixed bag. He’s been a top-10 field goal kicker in two out of his three seasons, but he’s also suffered a couple of injuries and struggled to be consistent on kickoffs. Still, I think you live with Forbath’s kickoffs so long as he’s clutch on field goals—unless, of course, you can find someone who is markedly better at both. To me, the bottom line is this: if GM Scot McCloughan can find a game-changing returner (easier said than done) and get a few more players like Robinson, Paul, Hayward, Akeem Davis, Darrel Young—guys who understand and embrace their role—I think it’s reasonable to expect the unit can take another step toward respectability in Kotwica’s second year.
25 questions series
- Who will replace Brian Orakpo?
- Can Pierre Garçon bounce back to his 2013 production?
- What will the Redskins do at right tackle?
- Can Hatcher put up double-digit sacks?
- Do the Redskins need more depth at running back?
- Will the rushing attack look different with Callahan?
- What can the Redskins expect from Jordan Reed?
- What to expect from the draft class of 2014
- What will the cornerback depth chart look like?
- A challenger for Kai Forbath?
- Who will start at right guard?
- Are the Redskins set at safety?
- How long will it take Scot McCloughan to build a winner?
- What should we expect from Joe Barry’s defense?
- Should the Redskins find a new kick returner?
- What will a successful 2015 season look like?
- Today: Can we expect more special teams improvement?
- Tomorrow: Who will be the third down back?