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Grading the Redskins at the bye: Special teams

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Grading the Redskins at the bye: Special teams

By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
CSNwashington.com

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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Need to Know:Redskins starters quick hitters—Kelley, Lauvao top depth chart, for now

Need to Know:Redskins starters quick hitters—Kelley, Lauvao top depth chart, for now

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 26, 32 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 22
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 47
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 59
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 111
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 159

Redskins starters quick hitters—offense

QB Kirk Cousins—No need to worry about him; he has plenty of incentive to play well even if he remains a “lame duck”. His is long-term contract, wherever he may be, can be either enhanced or reduced by how well he plays in another contract year.

RB Rob Kelley—The word is that they like Kelley and that he will line up with the first team when the time comes for them to do such things. But it could be a “love the one you’re with” type of situation and if someone bigger and faster is on the draft board Kelley could find himself in a serious competition to hold on to his spot.

WR Terrelle Pryor—I’ve never been a big fan of the Wildcat formation but it may not be a bad idea to get Pryor behind center occasionally. He was a 57 percent passer the one season where he got over 150 attempts and in 2013 he had a 93-yard touchdown run from the quarterback position.

WR Jamison Crowder—His 126 receptions are the most for any Redskins player in his first two season in pro football and his 1,451 yards are the fourth most. The acquisitions of Pryor and Brian Quick should allow Crowder to stay in the slot where he is best suited to be productive.

WR Josh Doctson—Although he got extremely limited practice and playing time last year due to his Achilles injury don’t underestimate the value of time spent in meeting rooms and around the team. The point is that he’s not going to be a raw rookie out there. He could surprise some people.

TE Jordan Reed—Over the last two years, Reed’s stats project to 95 receptions for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns if he had played 16 games per season. Those aren’t just Pro Bowl numbers for a tight end, they’re first-team All-Pro numbers and, if they are extended over a decade or so, Hall of Fame numbers.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

LT Trent Williams—Speaking of first-team All-Pros, Williams had a great shot at getting those honors last year but he had that bump in the road in the form of the four-game substance abuse suspension.

LG Shawn Lauvao—He’s not a fan favorite but the coaches plan on having him with the first team. As with Kelley, if a better option pops up on the draft board Lauvao could find himself in a battle. The difference is that even is Kelley doesn’t start he isn’t going anywhere; the team may not want to pay Lauvao $4 million to be a reserve.

C Spencer Long—He didn’t allow a sack in 13 games until the Giants got one on him in the last game of the season.

RG Brandon Scherff—He also didn’t have a sack on his record all year until the season finale. The Redskins are hoping that 2016 was the first Pro Bowl season in a string of many for the 2015 fifth overall pick.

RT Morgan Moses—He proved his mettle by playing through an ankle sprain that would have sidelined many others. Moses suffered the injury the game before Trent Williams was suspended, forcing top reserve to play on the left side. Don’t be surprised to see him get a contract extension at some time prior to the start of training camp.

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.

In case you missed it

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Draft talk, Ihenacho out

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Draft talk, Ihenacho out

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 25, 33 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 23
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 48
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 60
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 112
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 160

The Redskins week that was

Ihenacho's Redskins career appears to be over—This is based on some tweets he sent out; the team has said nothing officially or unofficially. Duke Ihenacho started 10 games at safety for the Redskins and they still don’t have enough at his position to fill out a depth chart. But apparently, they believe that Ihenacho is not part of the solution going forward and they will not offer Ihenacho, an unrestricted free agent, a contract. I think he’ll get another shot somewhere; he turns 28 in June and when he’s healthy he can play a role on defense and do some special teams.

Will the Redskins shift to drafting for need? Scot McCloughan always preached drafting the best player available rather than drafting for need. However, no GM drafts purely BPA and none draft strictly for need. How will the Redskins go with Bruce Allen having the final say and with Jay Gruden likely to have a strong voice in the draft room? Check out the post.

2017 NFL Mock Draft 6.0—A good job by Ben Standig here although I’m kind of skeptical of his first-round pick for the Redskins for reasons outlined here. And I kind of like his second round pick but I’d think he would be better in the fourth.  

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Could Miami's Kaaya be the Redskins' heir apparent at quarterback? I think that some Redskins fans have their fingers stuck in their ears and are yelling, “I can’t hear you” when it comes to the quarterback situation. The reality is that there is a very good chance that Kirk Cousins will be gone in 2018. Why wait until he’s gone to start developing his replacement? You can argue that Kaaya is not the guy but there has to be a plan.

Setting the odds on the Redskins' first-round draft pick—Mock drafts are all over the place with the Redskins picks, which is to be expected with pick No. 17. While I respect any analyst who can do a full first-round mock draft, it’s just impossible for them to be up on every team’s depth chart and thinking. As noted, nobody is sure how the dynamic of Allen and Gruden (and we could throw in college scouting director Scott Campbell there as well) will work in the draft room. While things might clear up as April 27 approaches, a big surprise at No. 17 wouldn’t be a surprise, if you know what I mean.

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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In case you missed it