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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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Josh Norman backs Kirk Cousins, points to Redskins' defense in argument with Jason Whitlock

Josh Norman backs Kirk Cousins, points to Redskins' defense in argument with Jason Whitlock

As the discussion rages around what the Redskins should do with free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, $75 million cornerback Josh Norman made clear he wants the passer back. Norman explained that the 'Skins struggles should not be pinned to Cousins, but rather, a Washington defense that finished the year near the bottom of the NFL.

"We got to help him out of defense, and stop somebody on the field," Norman said on FS1 (click here for full video). "We did not help him out at all. I'll be honest with you. We got to do our job."

Norman's comments came during a spirited argument with Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock and Cris Carter in what amounted to a festival of hot takery. Whitlock's argument was that Cousins is not a franchise quarterback, and shoult not be paid as such, largely for losing the final two home games of the year against Carolina and the New York Giants.

Cousins passed for nearly 5,000 yards this year, a statitstic Norman pointed to in his defense of the QB. He also explained that Cousins still has room to grow.

"He only had two seasons," Norman said. "Cam Newton had five seasons."

Drafted in 2012, Cousins was just named the 'Skins starter in 2015. He's started every game the last two seasons and gone 17-16 while passing for more than 9,000 yards. Norman played with Newton in Carolina before signing with Washington last year, and got to watch the quarterback develop into the league MVP in 2015.

Norman described Cousins as a 'great guy' and leader in the locker room, but he allowed that, "I know a great guy don’t translate into wins. I'm not saying that."

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN 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!

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The Final Countdown: Redskins 9th worst play of the year goes back to Week 1

The Final Countdown: Redskins 9th worst play of the year goes back to Week 1

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.

No. 9 worst play of 2016

Steelers at Redskins Week 1

10:18 left in Q2, Steelers ball 4th and 1 at the Redskins 29, Redskins leading 6-0

Ben Roethlisberger pass deep left to Antonio Brown for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Related: Projecting the Redskins' roster--defense

Tandler: Things were looking up for the Redskins prior to this, even though they were unable to punch the ball into the end zone in two forays deep into Steelers territory and had to settle for field goals (a taste of things to come all year). The Steelers drove down the field and went for it on fourth and one. Because Joe Barry opted not to have Josh Norman travel from side to side with Brown, it was Bashaud Breeland with one-on-one coverage on the right side. Brown beat Breeland and DeAngelo Hall was late giving safety help and Big Ben put the ball on the money. The score put the Steelers ahead to stay.

More Redskins: An early look at first-round draft possibilities

Finlay: It's easy to forget now that the Redskins had an early lead in the opener against Pittsburgh. In fact, their defense started well, until this point. In something that would be repeated throughout the year, the Steelers did not hesitate to go for it on 4th down against the Washington defense. Breeland was in pretty good position on the ball, though Roethlisberger's throw was right on the money. It would be only one more week until Josh Norman would then start traveling to cover other team's best receivers. Beyond the immediate impact of this play, it also seemed to stay with Breeland as he struggled somewhat in the first half of the season.

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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!