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The 5 O’Clock Club: Thinking about special teams post-Jags

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

NFL: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Redskins special teams were pretty bad in 2017.

A commitment made by Jay Gruden this offseason to improving special teams through player selection and giving ST Coach Ben Kotwica more of a voice in roster building seems to have paid off for most of the 2018 season.

While the Redskins return game hasn’t been anything special, Dustin Hopkins has been a reliable field goal kicker who has contributed to Redskin victories, kickoff coverage has seemed, to me, to be a bit above average, and Tress Way’s punting has been probably the best in the NFL, backed up by very good work from the punt coverage unit, who have contributed a lot to Way’s ability to down more than 30 punts inside the opponents’ 20 yard line without a single touchback.

The Jaguars game did not see the Redskins do well on special teams, with a partially blocked punt, a badly muffed punt return, and a punt return by the Jaguars for a touchdown. Jay Gruden talked a little bit about that in his press conference this week:

We’re going to be grinding out some games these last couple of weeks, there’s no question about it.

We’re not going to be in the luxury of being up 41-0 or anything like that, so special teams will play huge, and, at the end of the half, it was unfortunate. Obviously we had our returner way too tight. He was at the 50-yard line, he should have been back further and the guy banged it over his head with the wind at his back. Mo [Harris] misjudged it, fumbled it.

And obviously the punt — we would have loved to just kick it out of bounds there, but Tress [Way] was just trying to get it off and he launched. Then we lost three cover guys. Jehu [Chesson] got pinned and tripped, then he tripped over [Deshazor] Everett, then he tripped over the long snapper, so we had three guys on the ground. Then we lost contain, hence the big play.

Those plays are going to be huge moving forward. We have to [avoid] those type of plays; we have to make splash plays on special teams for us to have a chance.”

One fly in the ointment for the Redskins special teams is that the team’s long-time long snapper, Nick Sundberg, went on IR just prior to the Jaguars game.

His replacement, Andrew East, is probably a pretty good long-snapper, but finding same-for-same replacement in Week 15 of the season is tough at any position. During the broadcast of the Jaguars game, the game analyst discussed the difference in velocity of East’s snaps versus that of Sundberg following the partial block of the Tress Way punt.

He likely got that information from Jay in the pre-game discussions, as this is what Jay had to say about East on Monday:

I think when you’re comparing him to somebody like Nick Sundberg, you probably say ‘man those snaps don’t look quite the same.’ Nick is one of the fastest snappers with the velocity of anybody in the league. Andrew did a nice job though, they were accurate.

Poll

How would you grade the Redskins special teams play overall for the first 14 games of the 2018 season?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    A
    (39 votes)
  • 54%
    B
    (109 votes)
  • 22%
    C
    (44 votes)
  • 2%
    D
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    F
    (3 votes)
199 votes total Vote Now