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Do the Redskins need to find new returners in 2016?

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Do the Redskins need to find new returners in 2016?

In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

No. 20

Do the Redskins need new returners?

El-Bashir: When Jamison Crowder won the punt returner job, it was widely expected that the pint-sized playmaker would provide the spark the Redskins have lacked for years.

But that didn’t happen. In fact, Jamison struggled to produce the way he did at Duke, where he returned five punts for touchdowns. As a Redskin, Crowder’s return numbers were ugly. In fact, on 30 attempts the rookie averaged just 5.3 yards per—last among qualified returners. His longest return? A modest 16 yards.

Here’s how I see it: Crowder made plays in the ACC. He made plays for the Redskins on offense. Yet, for some reason he didn’t produce as a returner. So, I’d be inclined to keep Crowder (while demanding better decision-making and consistency) and make changes to the scheme and/or the players blocking for him.

I’m less certain about how the Redskins should go about getting more on kickoffs. Last season, Andre Roberts took one back for a touchdown, but his future in Washington seems shaky given his cap hit and disappointing production as a receiver. Meantime, Rashad Ross, the primary returner, also took a kickoff back for a touchdown, but he ranked just 11th out of 13 qualified kickoff returners with an average of 24.4 yards per (boosted, of course, by his 101-yard score vs. the Giants).

I like Ross’ speed and home run ability and, because of that, I'd give him more time to blossom. Remember, last season was his first as a full-time player in the NFL. But given his inconsistency, I’d also expect GM Scot McCloughan to bring in some competition via free agency or the draft, just in case it becomes obvious that change is necessary.

Tandler: One of the hardest jobs that Scot McCloughan has is to try to project future performance. When he looks at a player who was not consistently productive like Ross and Crowder he needs to figure out if they have hit their ceilings or, if given some time things will click.

I think that you have to give Ross some more time to master kickoff returns. You can’t teach speed, as they say, and some patience with Ross may pay off big. There is something to keep in mind here. Since so many kickoffs are pounded through the end zone and because kickoff returns are something that can’t be practiced at anything approaching full speed, Ross has had very little experience returning kicks. His 28 returns last year (perhaps you can add the five returns of his in preseason games to that) are the sum total of his experience.

With Ross, we do have his 101-yard return against the Giants as evidence that he is capable of doing the job and just needs to develop consistency. Crowder, however, had a long return of 16 yards. We haven’t seen much that would give McCloughan confidence that he can get the job done at punt returner as well as he did at Duke (13.4 average, 5 TD’s).

But to be fair, he probably got better blocking when he was with the Blue Devils. Special teams improved considerably in 2015 but punt return blocking seems to be lagging behind. Rarely did he get tackled after a short return only to find out on review later that there was a big opening if only he had taken it.

So they should stick with Crowder, too, but perhaps they should have a Plan B on the roster in case they find that holes are there and Crowder just can’t seem to find them.

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That time Antonio Brown and Kyler Murray practiced together

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USA TODAY SPORTS

That time Antonio Brown and Kyler Murray practiced together

Thanks to Antonio Brown, we have the hopes and dreams of a splashy off-season for the Washington Redskins in one tidy four-second video.

Brown, the NFL’s best receiver, is angling for a trade out of Pittsburgh.

Kyler Murray is the reigning Heisman Trophy quarterback and a projected 2019 first round pick.

During the NFC Championship game, the Steelers wide receiver tweeted out a clip of him hauling in a deep pass from the University of Oklahoma product. Yes, that’s going to draw some eyeballs, perhaps especially from fans of a team with quarterback uncertainty and lacking offensive playmakers.

Another OU standout, wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown”, joined his cousin Antonio and Murray for the workout. This isn’t the first time all three shared a field.

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The best rolled thru today, appreciate you @ab 📞

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Marquise Brown, a true speed threat, could become the first wide receiver selected in the 2019 draft.

There’s no way for the Redskins to land all three. Even two seems highly unlikely considering the two prospects are projected first-round selections and acquiring Brown would cost a No. 1 and plenty more. It’s still cool to dream. Considering the quarterback concerns with Alex Smith, Jamison Crowder entering free agency and the need for more pieces regardless, even landing one of them would work.

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Report: Dan Snyder was leading Redskins pursuit of Todd Bowles and Gregg Williams

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Report: Dan Snyder was leading Redskins pursuit of Todd Bowles and Gregg Williams

Despite speaking with a number of hot candidates on the job market, the Redskins did not make a change at defensive coordinator. Greg Manuksy will remain in that role.

That doesn't mean the team didn't try, as multiple reports showed that Todd Bowles and Gregg Williams were priority targets for Washington. 

On Sunday, a CBS Sports report from Jason La Canfora said that Redskins owner Dan Snyder was the driver in pursuit of first Bowles and then Williams. The story also points out that the Redskins owner was leading the effort, not head coach Jay Gruden.

The story says Snyder put the 'full-court press' on Bowles and offered to make him the highest paid coordinator in the NFL. 

When Bowles decided to go to Tampa and work with Bruce Arians, Snyder turned his focus to Williams. From the story:

Williams and Snyder have a strong relationship from his years serving as coordinator there under Joe Gibbs, and his previous head coaching experience, in Buffalo and Cleveland, also made him attractive. The team set up a formal visit and interview with Williams after he was let go as the Browns interim head coach, but the sides never met. 

La Canfora also contends that Snyder making aggressive pushes for both Bowles and Williams might not be good news for Jay Gruden in 2020.

The 'Skins head coach has two years left on his contract that pays him $5 million per year. Gruden has been assured he will remain the head coach for 2019, but few NFL coaches work in the last year of their deal. A 'lame duck' year for Gruden would come in 2020 unless the team and coach agree to another contract extension. 

The Redskins have not made the playoffs in the last three seasons, and have not won a playoff game in over a decade.

If Snyder is frustrated, he has reasons for it. 

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