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Need to Know: Will the Redskins’ special teams improve in 2015?

Jun 28, 2015, 6:20 AM EDT

Way punt blocked vs Texans

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 28, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

I’ll also take your Need to Know questions via email. Hit me up with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

Today’s question is from Twitter:

The Redskins’ special teams did improve last year but they were historically awful in 2013 so they were still among the worst in the league.

Per the numbers crunchers at Football Outsiders, the Redskins’ special teams DVOA (their metric for measuring a unit’s performance) was minus-12 percent. That was the worst in the league by almost five percentage points and one of the worst special teams performances since they started tracking these numbers.

Last year Washington’s special teams DVOA was minus-5.4 percent. That was better but still an unacceptable 29th in the NFL. It’s hard to celebrate it as a great achievement when there still are only three teams worse than you are in that category.

But improvement is improvement and all the Redskins can do now is try to continue to get better. I think the chances are pretty good that they can for three main reasons:

They’re in a second year under Ben Kotwica—There is every reason to believe that Kotwica will be able to get the job done. The team improved under him last year with a minimal improvement in personnel.

Jamison Crowder could be a quality returner—Andre Roberts didn’t scare any opponents last year, posting pedestrian averages of 7.4 yards on punt returns and 23.7 on kickoffs. He never threatened to break off a long return. Crowder has a quick first step, good speed, and solid instincts and should be a solid upgrade.

Better personnel—As noted, the Redskins did little to enhance the personnel on special teams after the 2013 debacle. This year they brought in a few draft picks in addition to Crowder who know right off the bat that special teams will be a primary part of their duties, players like Kyshoen Jarrett, Evan Spencer, and Martrell Spaight. They also retained veteran Niles Paul, a special teams mainstay for the past several seasons.

We will see what happens. Injuries could take a toll and things might not click for other reasons. But there seems to be an active awareness of the problems and, hey, there is no place to go but up.


—It’s been 182 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 77 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 32; Preseason opener @ Browns 46; final cuts 69

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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  1. colorofmyskinz - Jun 28, 2015 at 8:12 AM

    I have one thing to say – Kia Forebath. I love him as a place kicker from 44 yards or less. Great consistency from those distances. But when it comes to kick offs, he has to be one of the worst in the league. I bet there are 16 – 20 kickers that can kick the ball to the back of the end zone 80% of their kickoffs. Kia I bet he is luck if he can reach the back of the end zone on 20% of his kicks. If you count the goal line as zero and the back of the end zone as -10 yards, I bet the NFL average yard line kicked to is -8. Kia on the other hand kicks an Aversge kickoff to the 7 yard line, for a whopping 15 yard difference.

    We consistently gave the recievers a huge head start due to his weak leg. Most kickers putting the ball to the -5 yard line have their teams stop the returners before the 20 yard line. Kia on the other hand gives the recriver the ball on the 7 yard line and we don’t stop the returner until the 25+ yard line.

    This is a huge problem. And it does not matter how much we improve our coverage when the ball goes 10-15 yard less than the average kicker. That is asking a ton of the coverage team to make up for that weak leg.

    I love Kia from place kicks ONLY from 44 yards or less, other than that he is horrible. And he should never kick the ball off again in the NFL period.

    Honestly, if we did not have to carry 3 QBs, I bet we would pick up a kickoff specialist and never let Kia place the ball on a tee again. Tough love.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Jun 28, 2015 at 9:08 AM

      Definitely a part of the problem.

    • berniebernard666 - Jun 28, 2015 at 9:44 AM

      I AGREE COMPLETELEEEEE. So the real question is would we be better off with 2 kickers or THREE quarterbacks? And the answer is TWO kickers.

      What good is it to have Colt sitting on the bench as an observer, watching Forbath kick to the 4 yard line and watching some nobody run back a kickoff to the 33 yard line. Forbath just lost 13 yards for the defense, and on to of that just lost 13 yards for the offense after a punt. This is why the Redskins had the worst starting field position in the league, because even when the defense stops a team after a 7 yard gain, that team is punting from the 40 instead of the 27.

      Ty Long can boot the ball like nobody’s business. Maybe Scott M will be the voice of sanity this year and not allow them to cut the guy who is out kicking Forbath.

    • dcfaninecuador - Jun 28, 2015 at 10:59 AM

      This would be interesting if the skins actually had a kicker named Kia (a car, btw) Forebath. I be,I eve Kai Forbath is the guy your thinking about

  2. colorofmyskinz - Jun 28, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    Last year Kia had 18 touch backs as compared to an NFL average of 40, where the top kickers have 50-70. Our coach only allowed him to attempt 1 kick beyond 50 yards which he missed. Most NFL kickers have 7 attempts beyond 50 and make 5 of this 7. Kias long last year wa 49.

    Again Kia is great for place kicks only under 44 yards. I would never let him put a ball on the tee.

    We need a real kicker that is accurate, can kick 50+ field goals, and can kick touchbacks 70% of the time.

    We are fooling ourselves by keeping Kia.

    • berniebernard666 - Jun 28, 2015 at 9:46 AM

      please Scott M…..SAVE US from the insanity of Gruden.

    • skinsgame - Jun 29, 2015 at 1:38 AM

      So, what your saying is, we need an All-Pro, hall of fame type kicker. Gotcha. I’m sure they’ll sign one here pretty quick. No way we can wait for Forbath to develop.

  3. shermanp79 - Jun 28, 2015 at 9:38 AM

    It looks like they drafted a few guys with attitude, some hitters, which should get us going the right way. The bigger plus is having someone who could bring some excitement on returns. This unit has been ignored too long. I hope for a unit in the top half of the league. They should be able to have some impact on some games. It will be interesting to see what they do at K. It would be nice to get a stronger leg there. We need deeper KO and adding some longer FG into the mix will help win games. The great teams have guys making 50+ yd FGs regularly. Maybe this is the time to make a change, get that guy on the field in pressure situations.

    • berniebernard666 - Jun 28, 2015 at 9:53 AM

      ya know what? Deeper kickoffs will actually help field goals. It is all about relative field position and when the Redskins have the worst STARTING field position, then eventually that puts you at a disadvantage when the drive stalls. I am not worried about 55 yard field goals as much as I am about stalled drives at the 33 yard line which then creates the 50 yard field goal.

      With Forbath as the kicker, the Redskins MUST go for it once a drive stalls at the 33-35 yard line. So close you can taste it but so far far away with Forbath. might as well go for it or PUNT from the 33. Ridiculous.

  4. bangkokben - Jun 28, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    I’m in agreement about Forbath for not for some unknown. if a veteran (one of the top 15-20 kickers) gets released, let’s scoop him up. .With Griffin being the starter and Cousins being the back up, two QBs isn’t an option. Griffin could get injured – need a veteran 3rd stringer. If you can be short on another position – which I doubt – keep a kick-off specialist. But remember, you also have to make this guy active on game days.

  5. colorofmyskinz - Jun 28, 2015 at 10:30 AM

    I still think Hocker was a better option last year when they used their 7th round pick to draft a kicker that could out kick Kia. Kia is our weakest link on special teams hands down. Cannot figure out why he is accepted as good enough. Giving the ball to the other team on kickoffs at the 33 yard line placed our defense in such a tough position.

    Think about it this way. How many times did we pin the other team to the 5 yard line after a kick off. Them think about how many times we were pinned to the 5 yard line after kickoff.

    I don’t care that Kotwica has military experience. What I care about is a coach that can make a vicious special teams unit. The fact that he chose to keep Kia at kickoff tells me coach K needs to consult the military not the NFL.

    I want major improvement on ball position through kickoffs or I want coach K and kicker Kia gone. They honestly should rip the bandaid off right now and pick up a real kicker.

    Sorry Kia, I love you between 30-44 yards. Other than that, time to move on.

    Redskins have been Classic for finding misfits. I kicker extremely accurate between 30-40 but can’t do anything else. Running backs that kill it with yards after first hit, but suck at blocking, pass protection, and catching (MORRIS). TEs that run fast after catch but can’t block or pass protect. Offensive line that can pull but can’t push. QBs that can throw deep and run but can’t think.

    We just never get the all around player at any position it seems.

    • berniebernard666 - Jun 28, 2015 at 10:34 AM

      Sounds like most of you don’t know we have a kicker on the roster. TY LONG…is better than HOCKER was. Ty is da man.

      • colorofmyskinz - Jun 28, 2015 at 10:39 AM

        I forgot about him and have not researched him. Is Ty both place kicker and kick off specialist? If so, And if he is better than Hocker, let’s make the change this year!

      • colorofmyskinz - Jun 28, 2015 at 10:54 AM

        Just checked him out. Bye bye Kia. Welcome Ty! Looks great and with UAB experience. Could be our answer.

  6. Scott talbert - Jun 28, 2015 at 11:20 AM

    Let’s get rid of a kicker who’s 88% for his career? That’s stupid I agree on the Mom’s but letting Forbath go it would be a mistake! The goal on fg’s has always been 45 and in automatic.50/50 on longer kicks

    • Scott talbert - Jun 28, 2015 at 11:21 AM


    • berniebernard666 - Jun 28, 2015 at 12:14 PM

      well there is a point to be made that kickoffs are more important than field goals in some respects. The Redskins don’t appear to be winning games on field goals but they are LOSING games on field position, and that is not even debatable.

      In an ideal world, Forbath should be the field goal kicker for anything up to 40 yards and Ty Long can handle kickoffs and long field goals. I would keep both of them instead of having Colt sit on the bench watching the team lose. But hey…that’s just me. I am not a genius like Gruden.

  7. ET - Jun 28, 2015 at 12:36 PM

    Why can’t Tress Way handle kickoffs? He’s got more than enough leg for the job. I don’t get it.

    • kenlinkins - Jun 28, 2015 at 3:04 PM

      I would love to see some of that in preseason, but unless the offense scores points we only have 4 kick offs in the preseason to check out 2 guys!

  8. kenlinkins - Jun 28, 2015 at 3:01 PM

    IMO many Redskins fans did not understand just how bad the Redskins roster was in 2013. If not for D Jax, Murphy, Breeland and McCoy, the Redskins might have only won 2 games in 2014. The level of player development and impact from signed Free Agents was very low. The hope is that the new GM and position coach’s can make a big impact in 2015. The preseason will be fun to watch with so many question marks and changes. Until then it is just a guessing game as to the number of wins for 2015 but it seems clear that the 2015 Redskins could be a far cry better than what we saw last year. IMO this web site will really heat up after the first three preseason games with subjects like RG3, play calling, pass rush, D-back field, O-Line, etc etc etc. I for one look forward to those debates. Barring drama and injury, everything else is just noise until the first preseason game!

  9. bangkokben - Jun 28, 2015 at 7:34 PM

    Just nitpicking here but aren’t these two statements in opposition?

    “The level of player development and impact from signed Free Agents was very low. ”
    “If not for D Jax, Murphy, Breeland and McCoy, the Redskins might have only won 2 games in 2014.”

    Should’ve that bunch won us more than two games?

  10. mrhart76 - Jun 28, 2015 at 8:54 PM

    I say keep KAI . He’s money. After all of the bad kickers we have had over the years it’s good to have a solid – good one. Yall act like the Shawn Swisham years were that far back. I remember him missing short ass kicks to win or tie games from 25-30 yards out. Keep the good players. He’s not perfect but he’s proven to be solid.

  11. berniebernard666 - Jun 28, 2015 at 9:28 PM

    the reason, and its a pretty good reason, that Tress Way should not kick off, is because he is doing a GREAT job on punts so don’t stress his leg.

    Of course there are TWO ways to look at that though. If the Skins offense scores 6 times per game then Tress is going to have to be kicking off 7 times that game. Now on the flip side, if the Redskins offense is scoring 6 times per game then he probably won’t have more than 2 punts.

    And if the Skins offense stalls and can’t score but 2 times for 10 points, then he won’t be kicking off as much, he’ll be punting in that game. But I do think they don’t want to mess with his punting because he is the best. You know the old saying….”if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

  12. skinsgame - Jun 29, 2015 at 1:51 AM

    Last season, the average team was looking at 77.1 yards to the end zone after the kickoff. The Redskins opponents were looking at 74.4 yards. No doubt Forbath could stand to do better with kick offs but the club has been awful at special teams for a long time now and they were only 2.7 yards off the average. A good defense finds a way to negate that minimal difference. Archives

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