The Washington Redskins‘ special teams unit has seen major upgrades and is poised to break out in 2014.
The team’s preseason numbers are full of promising figures, and rival units would be wise to take notice. There has been strong competition all around , though especially at the kicker spot. Arkansas standout Zach Hocker was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft because his scouting report suggested that he is a crack shot from anywhere on the field. He has failed to disappoint throughout his four-game audition, and has raised eyebrows during training camp.
The freshman as nearly flawless during preseason, hitting five of his six field goal attempts. Hocker also displayed incredible power on kickoffs, booming quite a few through the end zone and delivering on all of his PAT attempts. His main rival, Kai Forbath, made his lone attempt in the Redskins’ preseason finale and went 4-for-5 in preseason field goal attempts. Forbath has not been quite as consistent during the preseason as Hocker, but the third-year kicker does have NFL experience under his belt which Hocker does not.
Washington’s gunners also showed promise in the preseason, soundly executing fundamentals such as tackling — a main part of S/T play that was MIA last season. The Redskins surrendered miles of field position on kicking plays last season, allowing four kick returns and one blocked punt that were taken back to the house while the kickers missed five field goal attempts.
The Redskins’ special teams unit won’t be seeing those setbacks in 2014. Washington’s new special teams coach Ben Kotwica has a zero-tolerance policy for incompetent special teams execution, and his fingerprints are all over the poise, discipline and shutdown coverage that the Redskins have shown throughout the preseason.
Will Washington’s special teams be ranked among the NFL’s top 10 this season? That remains to be seen. But the unit’s execution is night and day from where it was last season.