Quick Links

Bye week breakdown: Special teams


Bye week breakdown: Special teams

Bye week breakdown: Special teams 

What’s working: Kai Forbath doesn't possess as strong a leg as Billy Cundiff, but he certainly is more accurate than the kicker he replaced. In his first four NFL games, in fact, the 25-year-old is 8 for 8 on field goals, making him one of only four kickers who remain perfect.  Of those attempts, Forbath has made five from 40-49 yards out and one from 50 yards. Cundiff, by comparison, made only three of his final eight field goals attempts before being released. 

Forbath’s only hiccup has been a blocked extra point that he kicked too low.

While it’s too soon to know if he’ll be the kicker that stops the Redskins’ revolving door at the position, he’s certainly off to a strong start.

The Redskins’ kick and punt coverage teams, rank 15th and 4th, respectively, in average yards per return. Neither unit has allowed a touchdown, although the punt coverage unit benefited from an illegal block in Pittsburgh to nullify Antonio Brown’s 76 yard score two weeks ago.

Against the Eagles, the Redskins expect to get regular long snapper Nick Sundberg back from the broken arm that has sidelined him the past eight games. 

What isn’t: Kick returner Brandon Banks usually ranks among the fastest players on the field, but he hasn’t been able to put that speed to good use often enough. He ranks 21st in average kick return (24.6 yards per), with a long of 55. On punts, he ranks 25th (6.2), with a long of only 27.

Whether it’s Banks' indecision or the blockers in front of him, the Redskins’ need him to be more of a factor in the final seven games.

The punt team, meanwhile, has steadied itself after having kicks blocked in each of the first two games. But a little concern remains about the health of punter Sav Rocca, who has kicked the past three weeks with a torn meniscus in his right (kicking) knee, and left Redskins Park last weak sporting a brace and walking with a limp. Rocca has shanked one punt since the injury but is determined to play through it.

What’s got to improve: Speaking of field position, the Redskins need Forbath to be better on kickoffs – a responsibility he did not perform during his distinguished tenure at UCLA. Of Forbath’s 21 field goals, only 38-percent gave been touchabcks. Cundiff, by comparison, sent 62 percent of his 29 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

A detail, to be sure, but the Redskins will need every advantage they can get down the stretch.

Quick Links

Redskins running back Robert Kelley likely to get more carries Sunday

Redskins running back Robert Kelley likely to get more carries Sunday

The Redskins are about to find out what Robert Kelley can do and if their gamble to stay in-house at the running back position is going to pay off.

Whether Matt Jones is able to play on Sunday against the Bengals or not, it seems inevitable that Kelley, the undrafted rookie out of Tulane, will get a lot of carries. His career high in rushing attempts in a game is five. If Jones doesn’t play, Kelley could surpass that total in the first quarter. Jay Gruden said that Kelley, not Chris Thompson, will get the lead back role.

“You know, Chris has such an important role as far as third downs and his specialty role that we need him in that role and he’s not a very big guy,” Gruden said. “We don’t want to give him the ball 35 times between the tackles, you know? We’d like to have a more physical guy do that. Chris is going to get plenty of touches without a doubt but if Matt can’t go it’ll be mainly Chris and obviously Robert.”

RELATED: Preparing for A.J. Green, with or without Josh Norman

Even if Jones can go, his knee injury and his fumbling problems are likely to reduce his normal workload. Some of his carries are likely to go to Kelley.

While many would like to see what Kelley can do in extended action there is no way of knowing how effective he may be. It is something of a crapshoot. Kelley is averaging an impressive 6.1 yards per carry, but that number is inflated by 45-yard run against the Eagles. Still, 21 of his 31 carries have gone for five yards or longer. If he can get five or more on two out of three carries and protect the football on Sunday the coaches will be very happy.

One person with a vested interest in seeing Kelley succeed is Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan. All offseason, fans and many in the media were asking where the veteran running back was. Few thought it would be wise to go into the season with just Jones, who is in his second season and his first as a starter, and Thompson, who has just one full season in the third-down role.

But no veteran running back was signed, and the job as the third running back went to Kelley. If he can handle the role then McCloughan’s strategy will be vindicated. If not, the GM will have some egg on his face as he searches for an acceptable alternative to Jones.

MUST SEE: Redskins gets quizzed on British culture before London game

Quick Links

How the Redskins plan to stop A.J. Green if Josh Norman can't play

How the Redskins plan to stop A.J. Green if Josh Norman can't play

The Redskins may be forced to cover one of the best receivers in the NFL without one of the best corners in the NFL.

Coach Jay Gruden is very familiar with the receiver, the Bengals’ A.J. Green. Cincinnati drafted Green in the first round in 2011, Gruden’s first year as the offensive coordinator there. In three seasons with Gruden, Green averaged 87 receptions, 1,278 yards, and 10 touchdowns.

Green has done quite well in the wake of Gruden’s departure in 2014 to become the Redskins’ head coach. He is on pace for a career season, with 50 receptions for 775 yards through seven games. Stopping the Bengals offense means stopping, or at least slowing down, No. 18.

“A.J. is a different animal,” said Gruden. “You know, he is 6-foot-3-and-a-half, 6-foot-4. He’s very strong, and he’s got the ball tracking ability unlike anybody we’ve ever seen.”

The Redskins have just the guy to slow Green down under contract but Josh Norman’s status for the game is up in the air as he is in the NFL concussion protocol. The All-Pro cornerback will visit an independent neurologist later today. He may get clearance to make the trip to London with the team. But even if he does a setback of some sort could keep him out of the game.


If Norman can’t play, the Redskins will play a mix of coverages.

“A.J. has been pretty effective against just about any corner he’s ever gone against,” said Gruden.” And you have to do different things against him. You know, if you think we’re going to play Cover 0 with man-to-man the whole time, you’re going be really mistaken.

“We’re going to have to change up the coverages, figure out ways to beat him up a little bit at the line of scrimmage, and play a safety over the top from time to time, play a third, play somebody underneath him, and then play some man-to-man. We’re going to have to play some man-to-man eventually, whether it’s [Quinton] Dunbar, whether it’s [Bashaud] Breeland, [Greg] Toler, whoever it is if Norman doesn’t go.”

It sound like the Redskins are going to take a “kitchen sink” approach to covering Green or perhaps they haven’t yet figured out how to handle him.

Green is the best receiver the Redskins have faced since taking on Antonio Brown of the Steelers in the season opener. They had all offseason to try to figure out how to handle him and they had Norman but Brown still caught eight passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. So maybe they have to try to figure out how to win even if Green goes off.

And this season’s results show that’s possible. The Bengals are 3-4 despite Green’s gaudy stats. So teams are figuring out some way to mitigate the damage that the star receiver inflicts on a regular basis.