The busy portion of the free agency period is over. The draft and rookie minicamp are in the rearview, as well. Now comes the hard part for first-year head coach Jay Gruden: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin Tuesday, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are examining the top items on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the Redskins for training camp in Richmond.
Up today …
The special teams to-do list
Tandler: Who will return punts and kickoffs? We may not know the answer to that until the first kick of the season on Sept. 7 in Houston. But the process of identifying who that will be will get underway in OTAs. Special teams coach Ben Kotwica will start seeing who is confident fielding booming punts and long kickoffs, who shows knack for being able to follow a wall of blockers (even though the won’t be blocking anything since not contact is allowed). In addition, Kotwica will find out who is enthusiastically volunteering to be on special teams and who is reluctant. A half dozen roster spots or more could hinge on who loves to run downfield on kickoffs and punts.
El-Bashir: I agree that deciding whether to keep Kai Forbath or Zach Hocker (or maybe both) is a priority, however I also believe that the biggest challenge for Gruden and Kotwica this offseason is, without a doubt, identifying who can and wants to play on special teams. And then motivating those players. Remember what Niles Paul said after the loss to Kansas City? “It’s not a coaching thing, it’s an effort thing … 11 people out there to have to want to make a tackle,” he said. Ouch. But sometimes the truth hurts. Even without contact drills, effort is easy to see. Fixing the Redskins’ special teams began this summer with the acquisition of players such as Adam Hayward and Akeem Jordan, among others. Getting everyone to buy into the program, though, begins Tuesday.