The 2014 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of the first veteran minicamp on April 29, Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will examine 20 questions Washington faces as Jay Gruden pieces together the roster, finalizes his playbook and preps for his first season as a head coach in the NFL.
Who will claim the punting duties in 2014?
The Redskins had multiple, recurring breakdowns on special teams in 2013, and inconsistent punting certainly was a contributing factor. Former punter Sav Rocca ranked 30th in average yards per attempt and 33rd in net with a mark of 33.8, a career low. Rocca had some decent days, but he also produced a few ill-timed shanks, including a 15-yarder in Denver that gave the Broncos a short field late in tied game. At 40 years old and with a salary of $1.2 million, the Redskins released Rocca on March 4. As offeason workouts begin, the team has two punters—Robert Malone and Blake Clingan—vying to seize the job.
El-Bashir: Malone, 26, is the more experienced of the two and would appear to be the top candidate to replace Rocca. For the moment, at least. Malone has punted for the Bucs, Lions and Jets and has a career average of 44.5 yards and a net of 37.8. It’s also important to note that Malone played for new special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica in New York the past two seasons before being released after two games a year ago. So, yes, he’s also been cut by Kotwica. But for the Redskins to bring him in for an extended look, that must mean they see some potential. Clingan, meantime, has never appeared in an NFL game—preseason or regular season—and would appear to be a long shot. (Remember, Kai Forbath didn’t have any NFL regular season experience, either.) Still, the bet here is that Kotwica will gauge both during OTAs and the minicamps and then decide before training camp if the Redskins need to keep looking.
Tandler: Although my short answer is that I agree with Tarik that Malone will end up punting, I’ll introduce another possibility there. The Redskins’ 2014 punter might not be on the roster now. It’s the most fungible position in the NFL. It requires very little in the way of timing and teamwork—you catch the snap and boot the ball. It grows a bit more complex when you factor in the fact that most punters are also holders on field goal attempts but even that is just a matter of catching the ball and placing it right; if you can do it for one team, you can pick it up with another team in short order. Bottom line, I’d be surprised if both punters end up going to training camp. There is no need to use two roster spots on punters. If the one who goes to camp can’t get it done a replacement is just a phone call away.
- Yesterday: Who from the draft class of 2011 will step up?
- Today: Who will claim the punter position?
- Tomorrow: What 2013 draft pick will emerge to play a key role?
- Sunday: Will Brian Orakpo take the next step?