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Redskins Want 'Very Active' Special Teams

Posted Mar 31, 2015

If you're not a starter, than you're expected to be an active special teams contributor. That was the message head coach Jay Gruden had for his players at the NFL Annual Meetings.

With special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica's philosphies fully saturated into the team's plans, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden wants non-starters to be "very active" on special teams. 

While the injuries suffered to several key defensive players affected the Redskins' special teams unit in 2014, they also played a key role in the special team’s weekly gameplan, as there were new faces contributing seemingly every week.

All that moving and shuffling wasn't lost on Redskins head coach Jay Gruden.

“We had all of our injuries on the defensive side of the ball, a lot of our core special teams guys were moved into starting defensive players, and then we had to move practice squads up to special teams,” Gruden said last week at the annual NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix. “And Coach Kotwica had a new key special teamer every week, whether it was a flyer, whether it was a protector, he was having to deal with a lot of change.”

What made matters worse was that special teams ace Adam Hayward suffered a season-ending tibial plateau fracture in his right leg during a Week 12 game against the San Francisco 49ers.

“That really hurts,” Gruden said of losing a guy like Hayward. “He’s the captain back there and really holds the high standards for our players. But having him back as a captain, having some other guys that can come in with their second year with Coach Kotwica, it’ll be good.”

The special teams unit rebounded from a rough start to the season to be a steadying force late in the year.

Punter Tress Way was a pleasant surprise after joining the team late in training camp, while kicker Kai Forbath nailed three game-winning field goals and long snapper Nick Sundberg once again excelled in his role.

Way finished tied for the league lead in punt average at 47.5 yards per kick, while 22 of his 77 punts landed inside the opponent's 20-yard line, helping remedy some of the Redskins' field position problems.

“I think moving forward, with our punter and kicker situation, our punter is as good as any punter in the NFL, I believe,” Gruden said. “Our long snapper is excellent. Now we have to make sure we continue to add our depth. If you’re not a starter on our football team, you have to be very active on special teams, and that’s the approach we have to take.”

Andre Roberts, meanwhile, recorded 710 kickoff return yards – 11th most in the NFL last season – while the coverage unit, especially on punts, improved exponentially from the 2013 season.

Not only do the Redskins return Hayward from injury -- along with the recently re-signed Niles Paul, an active special teams contributor over the years -- but they also now have longtime Seahawks special teams standout Jeron Johnson in the fold as well.

While Johnson may turn out to be one of the team’s starting safeties, he said he'll gladly contribute on special teams as well if needed.

“That was my role with the Seahawks; my role was special teams,” he told ESPN980. “I owned it and did what I needed to do. We’ll see when I get there in a few weeks when we get started. I haven’t been promised anything, and I don’t want to be handed anything. I work for everything I have in life. I’m not trying to change it now.”

RELATED LINKS:
-- Jeron Johnson ‘All About’ Winning Super Bowls
-- Redskins, Niles Paul Reach New Contract

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