We’re counting down to the start of training camp here by looking at some numbers that will be keys to the Redskins’ 2014 season.
25—Yards per kickoff return
What we remember most easily about the Redskins’ awful special teams in 2013 are the returns made against them—the Cowboys’ Dwayne Harris taking a punt back all the way and returning a kickoff 90 yards to set up another TD, Devin Hester of the Bears scoring on a punt, and other plays where the coverage teams were looking at the back of a returner’s jersey as they ran in futile pursuit.
Those issues need to be fixed but they also need to do something about their own returns, the area we don’t remember as well because nothing happened. They averaged 6.4 yards per punt return, 28th in the NFL. They were worse in kickoff returns, averaging 20 yards, tied for dead last in the NFL.
The Redskins need to aim for much better results on their returns and kickoffs would be a good place to start. A long kickoff return is always a momentum changer. The returning team either makes a strong response to a score by the other team or starts off a half on a positive note. A kickoff return average of 25 yards is ambitious but achievable. That is a top-10 number and better than the NFL average of 23.4 yards per return.
The keys are finding a returner who has some speed and instincts who can break the occasional long one and getting a team of blockers who will buy in to the importance of their task. You wouldn’t think it’s that hard to do but the Redskins have struggled to do it for many years now. We’ll see if 2014 is any different.