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Bye week breakdown: Special teams

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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.

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Washington Redskins' 2017 cap is top heavy—is that a problem?

Washington Redskins' 2017 cap is top heavy—is that a problem?

It seems almost inevitable that the Redskins will put the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins between now and the March 1 deadline. This will set the Redskins up to have a very top heavy salary cap structure.

As the website Spotrac noted yesterday, if the Redskins do tag Cousins, giving him a cap hit of $24.9 million, he, Josh Norman ($20 million cap number) and Trent Williams ($15.1 million) will account for a total of $59 million against the cap or 35 percent of the estimated $168 million cap for the 2017 season.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

That’s a lot of money to go to 5.6 percent of the players on the roster. To compare, the top three players on the Cowboys’ cap account for 34.2 percent of the cap. The top three with the Giants take up 29.7 percent and in Philadelphia it’s 17.8 percent. In fact, a check around the league shows that none of the 2016 AFC or NFC playoff teams has a higher percentage of their cap expended on its top three than the Redskins have on theirs.

This caused some consternation among Redskins fans and while it’s something to keep an eye on it does not present a big issue for the team at this time.

For one thing, the Redskins still have a good amount of cap room. If you assume the Cousins tag, they still will have about $40 million in cap space with the ability to create perhaps $10 million more by releasing some veterans and/or redoing some contracts.

Also, it’s a temporary situation. Let’s say that the Redskins hang on to Cousins with a long-term deal and he has a $22 million cap number in 2018. If that the case then Cousins, Norman ($17 million), and Williams ($13.9 million) would still be the top three players on the cap number list and they would total $52 million.  On a cap that is projected to be $178 million that would be 29.2 percent of the total. That’s still on the high side but certainly manageable.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

And if you are going to have three players taking up a high percentage of the cap they should be your quarterback, left tackle, and No. 1 cornerback. Those, along with an edge rusher, are the most important players on the team and it’s appropriate to have them among you highest-paid players.

Still, the Redskins must be careful. Signing another free agent with a cap hit like Norman’s is out of the question. And as key contributors like Morgan Moses, Trent Murphy, Jamison Crowder, and Brandon Scherff become eligible for contract extensions or for free agency over the next couple of years, the organization needs to be sure that there is room to retain their own players when the time comes.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins offseason questions: Will they stick with Shawn Lauvao at left guard?

Redskins offseason questions: Will they stick with Shawn Lauvao at left guard?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice?

Will the Redskins make a change at left guard?

Tandler: When looking at the key plays that were responsible for the Redskins missing the playoffs you don’t have to go too far down the list to find the one in Arizona when Calais Campbell blew over left guard Shawn Lauvao and hit Kirk Cousins for a sack-fumble that was critical in Washington’s loss.

You don’t replace a starter based on one play but Lauvao did not have a good year. The sack was one of three allowed by Lauvao, the most in the interior line, and the 32 QB hurries he allowed were the most on the entire team. His run blocking was inconsistent. It’s clear that the position could use an upgrade.

Lauvao missed two games due to injuries and Arie Kouandjio filled in for him. Kouandjio was better in his second start than he was in his first, but he showed that he still has work to do. He is going into his third season and he has some room to improve but it remains to be seen if he can reach the point where he is a viable option as a 16-game starter.

The crop of free agent guards looks spotty (Chris Chester, anyone?) and there isn’t a guard worth of a first-round pick (for which Jay Gruden probably is grateful). Perhaps a second-round guard like Dan Feeney of Indiana or Taylor Moton of Western Michigan could start right away but other draft needs may have higher priorities.

It looks to me like they may get through 2017 with Lauvao and Kouandjio and perhaps find a mid-round pick who can develop into the 2018 starter.

Finlay: Points to Tandler for the guard jab. He likes that one. As for Lauvao, he drew the ire of many fans last season. Some of it was deserved, though he was playing with a variety of injuries in the second half of the season, but most of the offensive line was. It gets largely forgotten that he played very well early in the year. 

If the 'Skins, and namely Bill Callahan, determine Kouandjio is ready to start, Lauvao could be in trouble. Cutting him would save $4 million against the salary cap. That will certainly be considered in this equation. That will take a big leap from Kouandjio this offseason though, as he needs to significantly increase his upper body strength and footwork. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

— Defense in the first round?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!