When Jay Gruden took over as the head coach of the Redskins in 2014, he inherited one of the worst special teams units in NFL history. Seventeen games into his tenure, problems in the kicking game remain.
The Redskins' latest special teams gaffe cost them a game. With the Redskins tied with the Dolphins early in the fourth quarter, Miami’s Jarvis Landry took a Tress Way punt, found some room up the middle, put a move on Way, and was gone, 69 yards for the touchdown. That put the Dolphins in the lead at 17-10, which was the final score.
What went wrong? Plenty, according to Gruden. For one thing, Way outkicked his coverage with his 54-yard boot with about five seconds of hang time. But it was more than just that.
“We did have a couple of guys out of their lanes,” said Gruden. “Our gunner got pinned on the outside, he couldn’t get off a block. It’s just a matter of once the ball is kicked, we have to get off blocks better. We’ve got to have some good lane integrity. We had neither. We didn’t get off blocks, we missed a couple tackles down there.”
Last year the Redskins allowed both a punt return and a kickoff return for touchdowns. In addition, they had a punt blocked and that was returned for six points. Washington has not had a special teams return touchdown of its own since 2010 and Gruden is tired of seeing other teams have all the fun.
“It is deflating,” he said. “We’ve got to flip that script. We have to get some of those. We have to change the momentum in our favor. Seems like the last couple years, the kickoff returns have gone against us, the punt returns have gone against us, the blocked punts have gone against us. We have to start doing that ourselves, blocking some punts, returning some kicks. It’s going to take work and these guys have got to come out and buy into what they’re doing on special teams. I think we’re coaching them up well. We’ve got to coach better and we obviously have got to play better. But we have got to do better on special teams.”
Getting better in the kicking game obviously is easier said than done. Mike Shanahan talked about it a lot in 2013 and Gruden has paid plenty of lip service to special teams. But even though there has been marginal improvement in special teams since 2013, there still is a long way to go.