Depth chart preview: Specialists

Depth chart preview: Specialists
July 20, 2013, 9:30 am
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Over the past few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler have taken a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ depth chart.

Some battles are straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until it's finalized Aug 31. 

So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …

Position: Specialists

On the roster: Nick Sundberg, Kai Forbath, John Potter, Sav Rocca, Richard Crawford, Niles Paul, Nick Williams, Skye Dawson, Chip Reeves

Expected to make the cut: Sundberg, Forbath, Rocca

Comment: The field goal operation is set: Sundberg will snap, Rocca will hold and Forbath will put the ball through the uprights. After Forbath connected on 17 of 18 attempts last season, which included going 11 of 11 from 40-49 yards, there’s absolutely no reason to change a thing.

A year ago, the Redskins used their only injured reserve exemption on Sundberg and allowed Rocca to continue punting despite a sprained knee. The team’s belief in both players was confirmed in March, when Sundberg inked a four-year extension and Rocca got a two-year deal. So they are not going anywhere, either.

But there are a few questions that have yet to be answered. Such as: who will return punts? Who will handle kicks? And can kickoff specialist John Potter squeeze his way onto the 53-man roster? 

Fighting for a job: Crawford, Paul, Potter, Williams, Dawson, Reeves

Comment: After replacing Brandon Banks late last season, Richard Crawford averaged 19.5 yards per return on eight attempts. A very small sample size, yes, but the second-year cornerback appears to be the leading candidate to secure that job.

Niles Paul was solid after replacing Banks on kickoff returns, averaging 24.9 yards per over the final five games of the regular season, including long returns of 48 and 39 yards. Paul also ranked third on the team in special teams tackles with 10.

Crawford and Paul aren’t locks, but they appear to be safe. In addition to handling punts, Crawford is likely to secure the fifth cornerback job. Paul, on the other hand, is a Mike Shanahan favorite and appears to be guaranteed of one of the four tight end jobs, even if he doesn’t end up being the primary kick returner. 

Potter, meantime, will provide some competition for Forbath. Potter saw 50-percent of his 26 kickoffs last season result in a touchback. By comparison, only 24.2-percent of Forbath’s 62 kickoffs did. Still, it’s unlikely the team can afford to spend a second roster spot on a kicker. And Forbath is a lock.

Undrafted college free agents Nick Williams, Skye Dawson and Chip Reeves figure to get a look as returners.

There’s one more x-factor to consider: Although it’s likely that there will be little (if any) turnover among the specialists, new special teams coordinator Keith Burns will no doubt want to put his own stamp on the unit and will form his own opinions on the holdovers from last season. So don't be completely shocked if there's a surprise.

Go here to see our other depth chart preview posts.