With a new head coach, some intriguing free agents and a quarterback on the comeback trail, the 2014 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will be examining the top 30 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.
Who replaces Sav Rocca as the Redskins’ punter in ’14?
Sav Rocca’s three-year tenure with the Redskins came to an end in March when the 40-year-old was released following an uneven 2013 season that saw him post a career-low 33.8 net average. His coverage teams did him no favors. But neither did a handful of ill-timed short punts. So the Redskins are seeking a new punter and, according to head coach Jay Gruden, will choose either Robert Malone or Blake Clingan, the two candidates Washington will bring to training camp.
El-Bashir: Gruden said earlier this month that he was pleased with both Malone and Clingan during OTAs and minicamp. He did, however, single out Malone for his “powerful leg” while noting that the 26-year-old had hit the practice bubble’s ceiling a couple of times. It would also seem to me that Malone has a two other advantages entering camp: he punted for special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica as a member of the Jets in 2012 and part of 2013 and he’s got 31 career regular season games under his belt. Clingan, meantime, has none. Experience carries a lot of weight at any position in the NFL, but especially for punters and kickers, who are alone on an island as 80,000-plus spectators look on. As Gruden said, “it’s easy to putt on a practice green but sometimes when you get on a real golf course, the three-footers are a little bit tougher.” So as long as Malone doesn't struggle in the preseason or mishandle the field goal snaps, I suspect he'll emerge as the Redskins' new punter.
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Tandler: I agree with Tarik that Malone has the edge over Clingan. However, I believe that the answer to who will be punting in Houston on September 7 is “none of the above”. I think that they will look at their two punters in camp and end up scouring the free agent pool to find someone who can get the job done. Gruden compared punting well in practice to sinking putts on the practice green. Once the pressure is on I’m not confident that either one of these guys will be able to do that. By mid-August, Bruce Allen could well be on the phone to Zoltan Mesko (43.9-yard career average) or Mat McBriar (45.1-yard career average). And from the “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” department, I wouldn’t rule out a return of Rocca at a lower salary.