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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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Kirk Cousins shows off competitive spirit, soft touch - at Jenga (VIDEO)

Kirk Cousins shows off competitive spirit, soft touch - at Jenga (VIDEO)

After NFL minicamps end in mid-June, and before the grind of training camps start in late July, players are free to have a little bit of fun and try to relax. For Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins that evidently means a game of Jenga.

Fun at Kirk's 10 year high school reunion!!!

A post shared by Julie Cousins (@juliehcousins) on

The video comes from Cousins' wife Julie, and the caption explains that the couple were attending the quarterback's 10-year high school reunion. Looks like a fun scene, and the Michigan waterfront looks even better.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

For anybody that has watched Cousins on the practice field or listened to him mic'd up during a Redskins game, the competitive outburst is no surprise. Cousins likes to win, period. Even at life-size Jenga during his 10-year high school reunion. 

Obviously, contract talks between Cousins' representatives and the Redskins continue, and likely will until the July 17th franchise tag deadline. Last season, Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 passing yards, completing 67 percent of his passes to go with 25 TDs and 12 INTs. He's allowed to have a little fun here and there.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Pressure on Gruden, Galette confident

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Pressure on Gruden, Galette confident

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 24, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles in FedEx Field in 78 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 23
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 70

The Redskins week that was

Pressure Points: Focus is on Jay Gruden like never before—So you lost two coordinators and your top two wide receivers? Well, the Redskins gave him a two-year contract extension because they think he can deal with problems like those. Gruden will be cut zero slack.

Post-minicamp 53-man roster projection, offense—Sure, there will be plenty of lip service about everyone having a chance of making the 53-man roster. But this cake is very nearly baked. But the real competition in training camp will be for the 10 practice squad spots. I picked 25 offensive players to make it and I’m confident that 23, maybe 22 of the picks will be right. There seems to be more questions on defense (roster projection here) but even on that side of the ball, few jobs are truly up for grabs.

Redskins in a no-lose situation with confident Galette—We haven’t seen Junior Galette practicing in the spring before. Two years ago, he wasn’t with the team yet and last year he was held out so he could rehab his torn Achilles. That means we don’t have much comparison to make but he did look good. Next step is to do it with the pads on.

Snyder 'THRILLED' with ruling that should protect Redskins name—The legal part of the fight to get the Redskins to change their name is over after the recent Supreme Court ruling. They will not lose their trademark protection, which would effectively force them to change the team. However, it seems likely that the political and social battle will go on.

Is a Redskins-Cousins deal not only possible but probable?—One analyst thinks that the Redskins have too much to lose to not get a deal done by July 17. I think he’s right but I’m not sure if I’ll go along with his odds. 

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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