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How Much will the Redskins Special Teams Unit Improve?

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The Redskins have made significant improvement to their special teams unit this off-season, but how much improvement should you expect in 2014? Read more to find out!

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The Redskins special teams will be better in 2014, simply because they can't be worse than they were in 2013. Ben Kotwica was hired to replace Keith Burns as special teams coordinator, and was one of my personal favorite new additions this off-season, players and personnel included.

Kotwica brings a military background with him to Washington, and will install discipline and return pride to the Redskins special teams unit. I watched him closely at the first day of training camp, and he definitely runs a tight ship during practice(which is probably necessary after the season they had in 2013). The Redskins learned the hard way in 2013 how big of an impact special teams has on a game (see the Kansas City & Dallas games).

The Redskins addressed their special teams early and often this off-season, starting with bringing in Kotwica. On the first day of free agency the Redskins brought in Andre Roberts who has return experience (and is currently the first string punt and kickoff returner), to help a special teams unit that was the worst in the NFL and second worst all-time last season according to Football Outsiders.

RANK TEAM S.T. DVOA

LAST

YEAR

WEIGHTED

DVOA

WEIGHTED

RANK

FG/XP

KICK

KICK

RET

PUNT

PUNT RET

HIDDEN

POINTS

HIDDEN RANK

WEATHER

POINTS

WEATHER RANK

NON-ADJ

DVOA

32 WAS -12.0% 28 -11.9% 32 -2.5 -8.3 -6.4 -33.3 -9.4 -0.416 16 -2.323 23 -12.5%


The Redskins other free agents and draft selections had a common theme of possessing special teams ability in addition to their roles on offense or defense. The Skins brought in three inside linebackers in
Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan, and Adam Hayward, who are all athletic players with history on special teams.

The Redskins draft picks also have a lot of special teams backgrounds. Trent Murphy, Bashaud Breeland, Lache Seastrunk, Ted Bolser and Zach Hocker all have experience that the Redskins weighed in the draft process. It isn't very often a team uses a draft pick on a kicker, but thus far in camp Hocker's leg has looked significantly stronger than Kai Forbath's, and if he can show accuracy in field goal kicking Forbath's days are certainly numbered. However, the Redskins were so bad (ranked last in kickoffs resulting in touchbacks) that they may consider keeping Forbath and Hocker on the 53-man roster. Breeland and Murphy will both look to make impacts on special teams in their rookie year while they are not starters on defense. Both were solid teams players in college, and will certainly help in 2014. As for Seastrunk, he doesn't have a huge special teams background but he is a flat out playmaker with the ball in his hands and the return game could be another way to get the ball in his hands (he reminds me of Darren Sproles).  Ted Bolser has already been called a War Daddy on special teams by Coach Gruden, and that will be the only way he sticks on the roster this season.

The team also released punter Sav Rocca this year, a move that probably should have happened after the 2012 season.  Rocca had knee surgery following the 2012 playoff game, and was 39 going into the season.  The Redskins decided to sign him to a 2 year deal instead of looking for a younger, cheaper replacement.  The results were not good last season, and he finished dead last in net punting average.  Now the Redskins have brought signed two punters, Robert Malone and Blake Clingan to compete for the spot.  Malone is the early favorite, and should be a marked improvement over Rocca's inconsistent performance last season.

The Redskins have made a large effort to improve their special teams this season, the question is how much will they improve? As I've already stated, the special teams unit in 2013 was historically bad, and it can only get better in 2014. But can the Redskins make the leap from a terrible special teams unit to a solid one?

It feels like it's been forever since the Redskins special teams made a large impact on the game, the unit will improve in 2014, but what I want to see the Redskins return a few kicks/punts for touchdowns and the coverage teams to block more punts. These are the types of plays that can swing the momentum of the game. People forget how close Washington was in many of their 13 losses last season, these are the types of plays that can will ball games.

The Redskins have put a lot of resources into the special teams unit this offseason, only time will tell how much of an improvement it will have. However, in my opinion significant special teams improvement will be key to the Redskins return to the playoffs.