It is no secret that the Redskins Special Teams were a disaster in 2013. But it is now time to play the blame game. Was it Sav Rocca, the return men, or was it just all around poor tackling by the unit? My initial hypothesis is that all three of these phases of special teams were the sources of the disaster show. A special teams unit cannot be that bad without everyone making mistakes. Lets have a look, shall we?
Lets start with the aging punter, Sav Rocca. No one loves free kicks by a punter in the end zone as much as I do, but Sav has not been as effective the past two seasons. In 2012, Sav Rocca was the 4th worst punter in the NFL, 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 the worst punter in the NFL is not a good way to improve your special teams. The Redskins will likely look for a free agent NFL punter or draft a new punter in the 2014 draft. Either option is better than sticking with Sav Rocca at this point.
The return men were not spectacular in 2013 either. Let us start with the punt return men. 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. This list included Santana Moss (18 returns with 8 fair catches, 130 yards with 7.2 yards per return, and 0 touchdowns), Joshua Morgan (8 returns with 1 fair catch, 59 yards with 7.4 yards per return, and 0 touchdowns), and Chris Thompson (7 returns with 1 fair catch, 36 yards with 5.1 yards per return, and 0 touchdowns). Jerome Murphy and Nick Williams did not gain any yards on each of their attempts in 2013. There were no spectacular stats from the punt return men in 2013. The 2012 punt return game was different however. None of the punt return guys had any touchdowns, but Brandon Banks (26 returns with 5 fair catches, and 178 yards with a 6.8 yards per return) and Richard Crawford (8 returns with 2 fair catches and 156 yards with 19.5 yards per return) were a more effective tandem. Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall each had one punt return attempt in 2012, but neither gained more than 1 yard with their attempt. When Richard Crawford went down in the 2013 preseason, the team never replaced him with a viable return man. The Shanahan Plan was Chris Thompson, but it never panned out with after his poor return play and his injury.
The kickoff return game was also lacking in the past two seasons. 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 is barely passed the touchback starting field position. The kickoff return men also scored no touchdowns this past season. The kickoff return men included Niles Paul (20 returns, 411 yards with an average of 20.6 yards per return 39), Joshua Morgan (12 returns, 239 yards with an average of 19.9 yards per return), Nick Williams (9 attempts, 188 yards with an average of 20.9 yard per return), Chris Thompson (8 returns, 160 yards with an average of 20.0 yards per attempt), Santana Moss (1 return with 15 yards), and Adam Gettis (1 attempt for 5 yards). In kickoff returns in 2012, the kickoff return game was only slightly better. The kickoff return men also scored no touchdowns in 2012. The kickoff return men included Brandon Banks (22 returns, with 527 yards and 24.0 yards per return), Niles Paul (13 returns, with 283 yards and 21.8 yards per return), Evan Royster (2 returns, 39 yards with 19.5 yards per return), and DeAngelo Hall (1 return for 43 yards). The kickoff return game was better in 2012 than it was in 2013, but neither year had spectacular kickoff return statistics.
The special teams protection was also not great the past two seasons. In 2013, the Redskins gave up 3 punt return touchdowns and 1 kickoff return touchdown. In 2012, the Redskins gave up 0 punt return and 0 kickoff return touchdowns. The Redskins gave up 655 yards (on 39 punts) and an average of 16.8 yards per return to opponents in 2013. The Redskins gave up 1048 yards (on 47 kickoffs) and an average of 22.3 yards per kickoff return to opponents in 2013. Surprisingly, these 2013 numbers were an improvement from 2012. The Redskins gave up 320 yards (on 39 punts) with an average of 8.2 yards per punt return attempt in 2012. The Redskins gave up 1264 yards (on 55 kickoffs) with an average of 23 yards per kickoff return attempt in 2012. While the punt return and kickoff return yardage decreased in 2013, the touchdowns given up to opposing teams were the big difference between 2012 and 2013.
Based on the special teams statistics, it would seem the special teams unit was not only bad in 2013, but they were also pretty bad in 2012. Perhaps this was not noticed because the team won in 2012 and Richard Crawford made some spectacular special teams plays towards the end of the season. Sav Rocca had the most notable difference between 2012 and 2013, but he was still in the bottom four of punters in the NFL in 2012. The four special teams touchdowns that were given up in 2013 also likely caught our attention, considering the unit gave up 0 in 2012. The average yards per kickoff return and punt return rankings in the NFL also dropped drastically between 2012 and 2013.
While the special teams has been lack luster the past two seasons, it may not be the reason for the teams drastic drop off from 10 wins to 3 wins. While we all complain about the special teams from this past season, the special teams could not be the only source of the Redskins woes. Even though the statistics between 2012 and 2013 are not that different, this fact does not let special teams off the hook. They are still a poor unit and a weak link on the Redskins team. Hopefully Coach Gruden can improve them for the 2014 campaign. The special teams really cannot get any worse, so that is a good sign for the 2014 Redskins.