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Grading the Redskins at the bye: Special teams


Grading the Redskins at the bye: Special teams

By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir

How have the Redskins done this year going into the bye? Over the next three days Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir grade the team's performance unit by unit. Yesterday we looked at the offense, today it's the special teams.

El-Bashir's grade: C

A strong argument could be made for a lower mark given the occasional misadventures through the season's first nine games. But I've chosen to focus on the improvement Danny Smith's unit has shown in recent weeks.

And by improvement, I'm mostly referring to the signing of unproven Kai Forbath. Nothing turns around a struggling special teams unit like a competent, confident place kicker.

With the exception of a blocked extra point, Forbath has been exceptional, converting all eight of his field goal attempts, of which five have come from between 40-49 yards. He acknowledges that his kickoffs need improvement - and he's right. Of his 21 kickoffs, only 38 percent have been touchbacks. The player Forbath replaced, Billy Cundiff, couldn't make a field goal but sent 62 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks.

The unit has been good on punt coverage and adequate on punt and kick coverage, while returner Brandon Banks is averaging 6.2 yards per punt return (25th) and 24.6 yards per kick return (21st.)

Two areas to monitor in the second half are the health of Sav Rocca, whose bum right knee has led to one shanked punt, and the return of long snapper Nick Sundberg from a broken left arm. Timing is everything in the field goal operation and now Rocca and Forbath must adapt again.

Tandler's grade: C-

The Redskins have rallied to achieve this mediocre mark. They started off horribly with two blocked punts in their first two games and Billy Cundiff working his way to the waiver wire by missing some very makeable field goals.

The punt protection has been solid since the rocky start and Kai Forbath is perfect on eight field goal attempts (although his grade gets dinged a bit for booting a low extra point).

Sav Rocca, who consistently boomed punts last year, is 29th in the NFL in net average at 37.1 yards. Yes, his average did suffer from the two blocks and he has been playing with a torn meniscus the last few weeks. But there is no grading on the curve here, it's a performance business.

The return game has been good news/bad news. The good news is that they have allowed any long returns that either scored or set up touchdowns. The bad news is that Brandon Banks has been unable to shake free to make a game changing kick or punt return.

Besides Forbath, individuals receiving high marks are Lorenzo Alexander and Niles Paul who have been consistently solid and at time spectacular in coverage.

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Patriots trade C Bryan Stork to Redskins

Patriots trade C Bryan Stork to Redskins

The Patroits have traded center Bryan Stork to the Redskins, confirmed CSN Insider JP Finlay, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Ian Rappoport of the NFL Network was the first to report the news. 

The news is unexpected following reports earlier in the day that Stork had been released. 

In fact, Redskins Insider J.P. Finlay explored whether Washington should sign the former first-round pick a few hours ago. 

The Patriots selected Stork in the fourth round of the 2014 draft from Florida State, and in two seasons with New England he has started 17 games. Stork has also dealt with concussion issues, last year playing just eight games and starting six.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 315 lbs., Stork is big for a center. Current Redskins starter Kory Lichtensteiger lists at 6-foot-2 and 295 lbs., and was limited to five regular season games last season.

The Redskins have Lichtensteiger, Spencer Long and Josh LeRibeus competing at the center position, but none have the high-end potential that a Stork could bring to the position. 

Unfortunately, in addition to concussion issues, Stork has been kicked out of practices for fighting and can cross the line separating legal and dirty play on the field, according to CSNNE.com Patriots beat writer Phil Perry


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RB Chris Thompson unlikely to play in Bills game, says Jay Gruden

RB Chris Thompson unlikely to play in Bills game, says Jay Gruden

Redskins fans know that Presumed starting running back Matt Jones will not play Friday night against the Bills.

But on Wednesday, Jay Gruden said that Chris Thompson is also unlikely to play. 

Gruden said that Thompson is nursing a sore knee and shoulder and that the team would rather not "have him get banged around."

The coach pointed out it also lets rookies Keith Marshall and Robert Kelley get more snaps as the 'Skins try to determine what they have in the young runners. 

In his fourth season out of Florida State, Thompson is a known quantity for Washington.

A skilled receiver out of the backfield, Thompson emerged as a quality third down back for Gruden last year and a trustworthy target for Kirk Cousins out of the backfield. 

Gruden also announced that Chris Baker might sit out Friday's game against buffalo. The defensive tackle is batting soreness in his quad. 


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Redskins' Blackmon, Hall learning to communicate as they convert to safety

USA Today

Redskins' Blackmon, Hall learning to communicate as they convert to safety

Over the past decade the Redskins have tried some different things in their futile efforts to bolster the safety position. They have tried young players, older players, and everything in between while trying to stabilize the back end of their defense.

But they have never tried converting two veteran cornerbacks to safety. Until this year, that is.

DeAngelo Hall has made three Pro Bowls as a cornerback in his 12 years in the NFL. Will Blackmon has played in 81 games at cornerback in his nine NFL seasons. Both are being asked to set aside a lot of the knowledge accumulated over the thousands of snaps that they have played on the edge and move to the middle of the field.

Blackmon said this spring that he never played safety during any of his previous three NFL stops with the Packers, Giants, and Jaguars. Hall lined up at safety towards the end of last year but given the on-the-fly nature of the position switch defensive coordinator Joe Barry and the other coaches tried to make it easier for him.

“We kind of spoon-fed him along last year and had a specific package with specific calls for him,” said Barry. “This offseason, obviously we unleashed the whole playbook at him. I think in the long run, it actually worked out great for him because we didn’t overload him last year, as I said. We kept it pretty simple on him and he was able to make that transition a lot smoother.”

As Barry indicated, Hall will be going from taking a Playing Safety 101 course to being expected to perform at a graduate level. On one level it’s still football and he and Blackmon will be covering and tackling and trying to knock passes down. But unlike the cornerback out on an island a safety is responsible for communicating changes in the defense to the rest of the secondary.

“The way secondary play works is that most communication is from the inside out,” said Barry. “As a corner, you’re usually told what to do; you’re communicated to by your safeties. That was the biggest thing I know for D-Hall, especially a year ago when we moved him because he was like, ‘Wow, I have got to tell everyone what to do instead of receiving information and being told what to do.’ And Will echoed the same thing.”

Certainly they are taking a gamble by having Hall and Blackmon as two of the four safeties they are likely to carry on the roster. But they did give themselves time to properly prepare for their transitions.

“But the good thing is that we made the move,” said Barry. “It wasn’t like we made the move halfway through training camp. We made this decision in the offseason, so they got a full entire offseason, they got a full entire training camp, they are going to have four preseason games under their belt because every day is, ‘Ooh, I learned something new today. Ooh, I saw something new today.’ But I couldn’t be happier with where they’re at right now.”

Well, Hall isn’t going to have four preseason games to get ready. In the two the Redskins have played so far he has played a total of 18 snaps. He won’t play in the fourth preseason game so if he plays a half against the Bills on Friday he will have about 50 snaps under his belt. That’s not even one full game’s worth.

Blackmon has played a total of 58 snaps in the preseason and he could play in the fourth game so he will have more preparation than Hall from that standpoint. It will be interesting to see if Blackmon spells Hall early in the season as the latter player gets his feet under him.