During training camp, Redskins players welcomed the culture change that has washed over the franchise under the new coaching regime. No place is this more evident than on special teams.
Last year, the Redskins were at the bottom of the NFL in several special teams categories, including average yards per kick return and net punting average.
“It was embarrassing,” fullback Darrel Young said. “Everything that we stood for as football players was kind of humiliated.”
New special teams coach Ben Kotwica, an Army graduate, has energized the unit with his military background and detail-oriented breakdowns.
“You feel it in the air,” tight end Niles Paul said. “It’s a whole different atmosphere out there. You’ve got 11 guys who want to be out there, who want to make plays, who want to make tackles and who want to be a part of the special teams unit.”
The Redskins also addressed their glaring deficiency by bringing in players who excelled in that role on other teams, including linebacker Adam Hayward, who was named the Redskins special teams captain for the preseason.
“Nobody buys in more than Adam. He is a great leader,” coach Jay Gruden said. “He makes everybody accountable on the unit. It’s one thing having coaches yell at you all the time but it’s another to have players hold players accountable. That’s what he does and that’s what he is great at. He’s obviously a great special teams player — that’s well-proven and well-documented. But his leadership on that unit is also something that he thrives in.”
Special teams remains a work in progress, though. The unit forced a fumble against the Patriots, but also committed a key penalty on the same play.
“That’s what preseason is all about — working out all the kinks,” Paul said. “I think we’re doing that. I think we look damn good on special teams.”
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