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Redskins Q&A: Will Forbath be challenged in training camp?

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Redskins Q&A: Will Forbath be challenged in training camp?

With a new general manager in charge, new faces throughout the lineup as well as new assistant coaches bringing new ideas to the table, the Redskins are a team in transition. Between now and the start of training camp, CSNWashington.com reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the top questions facing Jay Gruden and Co. as they prepare for the season.

Will kicker Kai Forbath be challenged in training camp?

After almost three seasons in Washington, the Redskins know what they’ve got in Forbath. He’s a clutch, accurate field goal kicker but he struggles on kickoffs. The 27-year-old has also missed a handful of games with injuries. There is, however, a reason the UCLA product has survived as long as he has: He puts the ball between the uprights when the game is on the line. Will the Redskins stick with him or search for a more well rounded kicker?

El-Bashir: If Jay Gruden was going to replace Forbath, I suspect he would have done it last year after drafting Zach Hocker in the seventh round. Forbath, of course, outperformed Hocker in the preseason and held onto his job. (Hocker is currently competing for a job in New Orleans, in case you were wondering.)

I don’t see things unfolding any differently between now and the start of the season.

Last year, Forbath made 24 of his 27 field goal attempts (88.9 percent), including seven of his eight tries from 40-49 yards. On kickoffs, however, he only recorded 18 touchbacks, which ranked 26th.

This is where it gets a little complicated. Forbath struggles to force touchbacks, but he’s money when the game is on the line. Case in point: He earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors last October after booting four field goals, including the overtime winner, to beat the Cowboys on Monday Night Football in Dallas.

In May, the Redskins signed Alabama-Birmingham kicker Ty Long to push Forbath. And I assume he’ll get the opportunity to show what he can do in the preseason. In college, Long connected on 59 of 77 field goal attempts (76.6 percent) and last season recorded 39 touchbacks on 76 kickoffs. So, yeah, he’s got a big leg. But his inexperience, in my opinion, makes him a long shot to win the job.

Tandler: Yes, Forbath is accurate from inside the 50, but so are a lot of kickers. What Forbath is lacking is a big leg. He did have any field goals from 50 or more yards out last year and he has just two in his career. 

I don’t think that Forbath has much to worry about from Long. As Tarik noted, if they were going to go younger and cheaper at kicker they probably would have stuck with Hocker last year. 

But that doesn’t mean that Forbath is safe. A couple of misses in the preseason could have Scot McCloughan on the phone, brining in out of work veterans for tryouts. 

Eventually, the Redskins might get punter Tress Way to handle the kickoff duties and keep Forbath as a field goal specialist. But they still have work to do to refine Way’s punting technique so the kickoffs may need to wait. 

So even if the kickoffs and long-range field goals are lacking, Forbath probably is safe as long as he keeps booting the short field goals. But if that ability goes south, as it sometimes does without explanation, his seat will get very hot very quickly.

Previously on Redskins offseason Q&A:

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Fan questions—The secondary

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.

Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.

Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefited from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.

The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent, but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.

It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.

Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.

The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.

The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.

There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year. 

The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.

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 and on Instagram @RichTandler.

Tandler on Twitter

I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.

Timeline  

Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59

The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. There was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown fewer interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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