There was no unit more abysmal for the Washington Redskins than their special teams in 2013. The Redskins easily fielded the NFL’s worst special teams unit, surrendering field position to their opposition with their inability to contain opposing kick returners. Washington allowed four kick returns for touchdowns last season, easily the worst in the NFL. They even had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in Week 3 as well.
The Redskins’ perennial issues on defense are troublesome enough to overcome. But with a special teams unit that seemingly can’t get out of its own way, it’s no wonder Washington finished with a 3-13 record in 2013. Changes needed to be made, and the dismissal of first-year special teams coach Keith Burns is reflective of that much-needed change.
Washington needs to find someone functional in returning kickoffs and punts. Running back Chris Thompson was supposed to fill that role last season, but a torn labrum in his left shoulder ended his season prematurely. Cornerback Richard Crawford displayed brief flashes of efficiency in 2012 returning punts. However, he sustained a left knee injury during the 2013 preseason that sidelined him for the entire season.
Newly acquired wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts are the most prime candidates to return punts for the Redskins. It wouldn’t be in the team’s best interests for them to return kicks, considering Jackson and Roberts signed lucrative deals to solidify Washington’s receiving corps. Exposing either of them to injury unnecessarily slits everyone’s throat in the metaphoric sense.
Washington does have one bright spot on special teams. Placekicker Kai Forbath (pictured) has forged a solid two-year career in Washington. He has connected on 35-of-40 field goals for Washington, including 2-of-3 from at least 50 yards. Interestingly enough, the Redskins drafted placekicker Zach Hocker in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft. If Hocker makes the 2014 opening day roster, he will most likely serve as a kickoff specialist.
Hocker’s 64.7 average yards per kickoff led the NCAA, which supports his efficiency as a kickoff specialist. OK, that statistic won’t give Redskins fans confidence that their special teams unit will get better. But you have to start somewhere. Considering their poor special teams play last season, Washington has nowhere else to go but up in that regard.