- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

An area that was neglected entirely last season, from coaching to players, was one of Jay Gruden‘s top priorities this offseason.

In addition to hiring one of the top young assistants in the game, Ben Kotwica, a former combat helicopter commander in the Army, the Redskins signed Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward, who were their teams’ special teams captains last season, and brought in others who have significant experience in the forgotten phase of the game.

Washington also spent its final draft pick on a kicker, selecting Arkansas’ Zach Hocker primarily because of his leg strength. Kai Forbath, the Redskins’ kicker for the better part of the past two seasons, has struggled to reach the end zone on kickoffs, and while it’s unlikely that the team keeps both players, the one who demonstrates the most consistency during training camp should win both jobs.

Sav Rocca, the Redskins’ punter the last three years, was cut in late February, and the Redskins will enter camp with former New York Jets starter Robert Malone and Blake Clingan battling for the job.

Perhaps the most intriguing competition will be among the return specialists. Richard Crawford, the Redskins’ punt returner in 2012, tore the ACL in his left knee late last preseason and missed the year. Nick Williams, who tried returning both punts and kickoffs at the end of last season, was inconsistent. The most intriguing option is Andre Roberts, who handled both jobs for the Cardinals as a rookie in 2010 but has not consistently done so since.

• Zac Boyer can be reached at zboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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