Future of Redskins Return Game Looking Bright
It’s no secret that the Redskins special teams have struggled in recent years. There are a variety of reasons behind the lackluster play on special teams; poor coaching, lack of talent and bad execution.
The Redskins haven’t scored a touchdown on a punt or kick return since Brandon Banks did so in 2010. That touchdown was the Redskins first kick return for a touchdown in 70 games at that point, five years ago. Truth is this issue has shown its ugly face nearly every season since Brian Mitchell left.
During that time the Redskins have dealt with the league’s worst starting field position year in and year out. It’s an ugly little stat that leads to problems both defensively as well as offensively. The Redskins realized this and have looked to correct the issue each of the last two off-seasons. Last year the team signed Andre Roberts to take over the return man duties, Roberts didn’t have a very good year only averaging 7.4 yards per punt return and 23.7 yards per kick return. This year the team drafted Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder, a speedy/shifty runner with great hands. Crowder spent quite a bit of time returning kicks at Duke.
ESPN Redskins beat-reporter John Keim had the following to say about Crowder on his blog Friday.
On the field, he can provide help in a big way as a punt returner. Based on watching his games at Duke and in watching him during the open portion of the organized team activity sessions, Crowder’s quickness is hard to miss. He has a knack for making defenders miss because he knows how to set them up. He knows when he must sprint immediately or when he can set up a defender with a fake only to burst the other way.
It’s why he should be effective on bubble screens as well. On those plays, you have to combine a dash of patience with an excellent burst. The other day, Crowder took a pass and, knowing the defense was swarming, took off immediately. Other times, he’ll need to set up a block with a slight pause.
Regardless, those same skills will help the Redskins return game. He’s just more explosive than Roberts.
This is almost the exact thought I had watching Crowder at Duke the last two years and also looking over his highlight reel (below), which is impressive.
The return man is obviously not the only issue in the Redskins return game has faced as the team has struggled to find quality depth along the way. The move that essentially crippled the kick and return teams was the free-agent departure of Lorenzo Alexander. Alexander signed a much larger deal with the Arizona Cardinals than the one the Redskins were offering, which is understandable when you consider the factors. Alexander was looking for stability, the Redskins were looking for a special teams demon who could be a backup at multiple spots on defense. Problem is the Cardinals offered Alexander starting linebacker money, and he left Washington soon after that.
The last few years Niles Paul has been one of the guys who has stepped up on special teams. The team signed special teams ace Adam Hayward last year in hopes of bolstering the unit, only to see him go down with a season-ending injury. The Redskins drafted a few players this year who will likely have special teams roles in linebacker Martrell Spaight and corners Kyshoen Jarrett and Tevin Mitchel. Coupled with a healthy Heyward and Crowder returning kicks, the 2015 Redskins specials teams should be much improved over last years unit.