With the 2017 offseason about to kick into high gear, Redskins Insiders JP Finlay and Rich Tandler are going to take one last look at 2016 in the coming days. That’s right, it’s time to hand out awards for Coach of the Year, Special Teams Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year.
Yesterday we picked our top coaches. Today we select the Special Teams Player of the Year.
Tandler: The Redskins’ special teams slid back from being one of the better units in the NFL (6th in the NFL in DVOA) to the middle of the pack (15th in DVOA). Tress Way saw his punting average decline and Dustin Hopkins went from being Mr. Automatic to a question mark as he missed some very makeable and important field goals. But one player who improved from 2015 was punt returner Jamison Crowder. His average per return two years ago was 5.3 yards, last among all NFL players with enough returns to qualify. This year it jumped to 12.1 per return, good enough to earn a spot as an alternate in the Pro Bowl. Even if it had been a good season on special teams as a whole Crowder likely would have been in the running for player of the year. In 2016 his selection was a no-brainer.
Finlay: Well, Tandler kinda said it all. Crowder had a breakout season and delivered the Redskins their first NFL punt return leader since Brian Mitchell in 1994. Not only did Crowder improve field position consistently, he did it in big games and at big spots. Late in the year, some teams tried to kick away from Crowder or pin him on the sideline, the truest mark of respect for an elite returner.
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