Redskins Training Camp: Special Teams Preview
The Washington Redskins officially started training camp this week. Many things have changed, some have stayed the same. Training camp is the time for coaches to break down the talent they have and assemble a 53-man roster out of the 90 men who are invited to camp. In the coming days, we are going to break down each position of the Redskins roster. Since 2013 marked one of the worst special teams in the history of the Redskins, we decided to start there.
The 2013 Washington Redskins had the 31st ranked special teams in the National Football League a year ago. They were not just bad, they stunk at just about everything. Our friends over at Hogs Haven broke down in numbers just how bad the unit was back in January (we are going to use their numbers for this breakdown). The unit is now coached by Ben Kotwica, who took over for the fired Keith Burns.
2013 – Sav Rocca
Special Teams are literally the glue in between the cracks for any football team with the punter being one of the most important pieces. The Redskins have undoubtedly had one of the worst punters in the NFL for awhile now. In 2012, Sav Rocca was the 4th worst punter in the league, averaging a net of 37.2 yards per punt. In 2013, Sav was the worst punter in the NFL, averaging a net of only 33.8 yards per punt. Having a 33.8 yard per punt average should be embarrassing for any professional punter in the NFL.
Of the two punters currently on the roster, only Robert Malone actually has game experience (he punted in all 16 games for the NY Jets in 2012 and had a per punt average of 45.3 that year. Blake Clingan was originally signed by the Lions last year but was cut during training camp.
2013 – Kai Forbath
2014 – Kai Forbath, Zach Hocker
In 2012 most fans of the burgundy and gold thought the Redskins had finally found a clutch place-kicker in Kai Forbath. Forbath broke the NFL record for consecutive kicks made to start a career with 17 in 2012. 2013 wasn’t so great for Forbath though as hit 18 of 22, the problem is Forbath is horrible on kickoffs. Forbath only had 14 kicks for touch-back last season, which was second worst in the league.
The Redskins drafted Zach Hocker from Arkansas in the 7th round this past spring as they look to push Forbath in camp this year. While it’s not a sure thing, there is always the chance the Redskins keep both, one to kick field goals and the other to kick off. Of course, if the Redskins were to do that it would also mean one less player at another position somewhere on the team.
Kick Returner/Punt Returner:
2013 – Santana Moss, Niles Paul, Chris Thompson, Josh Morgan, Nick Williams
2014 – Andre Roberts, Lache Seastrunk, Chris Thompson, Santana Moss
The Redskins have used a “return man by committee” the last two seasons; the result hasn’t been something to write home about. The Redskins were ranked 16th in average punt return yards in 2012 and 25th in 2013. In punt returns in 2013, no return man averaged more than 7.4 yards per return. The Redskins ranked 16th in 2012 for average yards per kickoff return and 31st in 2013. In kickoff returns in 2013, the highest average kickoff return was 20.9 yards….that’s barely more than you get on a simple touchback.
Heading into camp, it appears that newly acquired free agent Andre Roberts will be the man in Washington. Roberts, who hasn’t returned kicks since his rookie season, averaged 22.4 yards on 22 kick returns and 6.9 yards on 40 punt returns during that one year.
Roberts recently had this to say in regards to being a return man:
“After my first year, I started to get used to it. Then I started my second year so they really don’t want the starters doing that too much. I never really had the opportunity to get in there and do it like I wanted to. So being here and having the opportunity is big and I would love to do it.”
Others who will play a major role in special teams this year include tight end Niles Paul, linebackers Adam Hayward, Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton. Paul has been the bright spot on a horrible unit the last two years for the Redskins, but Jordan and Hayward both have made careers off of excellent special teams play elsewhere. The rest of the unit will be comprised of the backups that make the final roster (which at this moment is unknown).
It’s imperative that this unit drastically improves in 2014 if the Washington Redskins want to have any chance to win more games than they lose.