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Will special teams doom the Redskins?

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Will special teams doom the Redskins?

As anyone who has been even a casual observer of the team this year could tell you, Redskins special teams are not very good. But are they historically bad? One analyst believes they are in the running to be the worst special teams unit ever.

Mike Tanier writes about the NFL for Sports on Earth and he is one of the authors of the annual Football Outsiders Almanac.

In a recent post Tanier states the following.
The Redskins special teams are awful. In fact, they are on pace to be the worst ever. That’s not internet hyperbole, it’s science: Football Outsiders ranks the Redskins special teams as the third worst of the last 20 years. And they’re just a few punt return touchdowns or blocked field goals away from being historically terrible.
Their sins include two blocked field goals, a blocked punt, two punts returned for touchdowns, an NFL-low average of 60.1 yards per kickoff, and a return game that is among the worst in the NFL.

Not included in the statistical mix is possibly the Redskins most embarrassing special teams moment since Jim Zorn’s Swinging Gate fake field goal. Against the Vikings, half of the team knew that punter Sav Rocca was going to throw a pass on a fake punt and the other half, including intended receiver Niles Paul, didn’t know that the fake was on. Fortunately, the whole fiasco ended before it officially started due to a pre-snap motion penalty against the Redskins.

Throw it all together and, according to Football Outsiders, you have special teams that are 14.3 percent below average compared to the rest of the league. Only the 2008 Vikings and the 2010 Chargers have been that far below average for a full season.

But the news isn’t all bleak. Tanier noted that special teams tend to improve as the season goes on. This is usually due to more attention being paid to them by the coaching staff, personnel changes and work on specific techniques (such as Kai Forbath working on the height of his field goal attempts).

Also, historically bad special teams do not necessarily doom a team to an unsuccessful season. The three worst units over a full season—the above-mentioned ’08 Vikings and ’10 Chargers plus the 1995 Eagles—were all teams with winning records on the season.

It’s not as though this Redskins team is strong enough in other areas to compensate for historically bad special teams play. But if things do get better—and we’re still waiting for our first game in the last six without a costly and/or comical special teams gaffe—perhaps the kicking game can become an asset to the Redskins. Or, perhaps, at least not a hindrance.

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Redskins promote CB Phillips from practice squad, waive Bruton Jr. and Clausell

Redskins promote CB Phillips from practice squad, waive Bruton Jr. and Clausell

The Redskins made a roster move just before departing for Arizona to play the Cardinals.

They signed cornerback Dashaun Phillips from the practice squad and cut offensive tackle Blaine Clausell. The Redskins also waived safety David Bruton Jr. off of injured reserve.

Phillips was the Redskins’ nickel corner for the first three games of the season, and he made four tackles and recovered a fumble. But they moved rookie Kendall Fuller up into the slot corner role in Week 4 and Phillips spent several weeks on the inactive list before being waived on November 12 and added to the practice squad three days later.

The moves became known after Redskins coach Jay Gruden had spoken to the media for the day so we can only speculate as to the reasoning behind them. Actually, the release of Clausell isn’t hard to figure out. He was signed after Trent Williams started his four-game suspension and with Williams set to return on Monday and the other options at backup tackle healthy there was no point in keeping him around.

Phillips is likely going to Arizona as an insurance policy. The Cardinals like to spread the field with a lot of wide receivers. They will want to have five cornerbacks active. They do have Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Fuller, Quinton Dunbar, and Greg Toler. But Breeland is listed as questionable with an ankle injury and they Redskins don’t want to take any chance of being caught short-handed at cornerback if he suffers a setback. That’s especially true when they don’t need to bring an extra tackle along.

Depending on how things shake out injury-wise against the Cardinals there is a good chance that we could see Phillips on the waiver wire once again as a roster spot will be needed for Williams.

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Redskins-Cardinals injury report: Reed out, seven questionable

Redskins-Cardinals injury report: Reed out, seven questionable

Redskins

Out

TE Jordan Reed (shoulder)—The word heroic is thrown around too often when talking about what athletes do, in light if what, say, first responders do every day. But Reed playing in the second half out of the Dallas game with a third-degree AC joint sprain certainly was remarkable. But Gruden said that Reed won’t have sufficient range of motion in the shoulder or range of motion to be able to go against the Cardinals.

DE Anthony Lanier (leg)—The reserve lineman missed the second half of the Dallas game with a leg contusion. Gruden said he was kicked in the lower leg against the Cowboys and the swelling is still an issue.

Questionable

LS Nick Sundberg (back)—He tweaked his back in the weight room before the Packers game and missed that game and the one against the Cowboys. He was a full go in practice all week and will return against the Cardinals.

G Brandon Scherff (ankle)—He has been limited in practice during the week but it seems certain that he will go against the Cardinals.

T Ty Nsekhe (ankle)—Ditto comment on Scherff above.

CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle)—He suffered the injury in practice this week and he was limited in practice on Thursday.

RB Chris Thompson (illness)—He was limited in practice during the week but he said in the locker room he will have his usual role on Sunday.

Also questionable for the Redskins: ILB Terence Garvin (shoulder) and DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee)

Cardinals

Check back for the Cardinals injury update after they release their report later this afternoon.