Adam Hayward likes how the Washington Redskins' special teams unit progressed at times during the 2014 season, but he still believes there's room for improvement both technically and mentally.
Statistically, the Redskins rebounded from one of their worst seasons in terms of special teams coverage and the return game, but Hayward knows that a little bit of edginess can go a long way.
A countdown of the top-10 images of linebacker Adam Hayward during the 2014 season.
"To be a good team, you need that attitude," he said. "[And] I guess swag you could say like teams like Seattle and Dallas [have]. You need that, and that's something we're going to have to find real quick and we're going to take care of that real quick."
Hayward joined the Redskins last offseason after spending his first few seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While he served as one of Washington's second-team linebackers, his presence was felt most on special teams as he's the unit's captain and set the tempo throughout the season.
Despite missing the last five games of the season with a tibial plateau fracture against San Francisco in Week 12, Hayward still managed 13 special teams tackles – third highest on the Redskins.
Early in the season, the Redskins' struggles on special teams remained, as the Houston Texans blocked a punt for a touchdown in the season opener and the Philadelphia Eagles returned a kickoff for a score Week 3.
But as some of the veteran leaders like Hayward were able to grab hold of the unit behind special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica's tutelage, things turned around.
Punter Tress Way quickly became a pleasant surprise while Kai Forbath remained consistent and kickoff/punt returner Andre Roberts was able to create some positives in the return game that allowed for better starting field position for the offense.
Just as everything really hit stride, though, injuries began affecting some of the rapport the unit had built.
"Right in the middle part, obviously when I was playing, our special teams was doing really well," Hayward reflected. "We had big returns, we had big tackles, we had big plays and we were up there. Towards the end, our unit kind of started having a lot of injuries, so we started having guys – and I mean no disrespect – but I didn't know who half of them were. That's what happens. You lose people like D-Hall [DeAngelo Hall], Rak [Brian Orakpo], myself, [Brandon] Meriweather and you've got to add people and it's kind of hard to play."
And while it's challenging to work with a unit that's in constant flux in terms of personnel, Hayward doesn't want to use that as an excuse for any struggles.
"When you get younger guys it's hard, but it's no excuse," he said. "To ask these young guys to come in here and play right away with this team that's been building and things haven't been going well – it's definitely hard."
One thing Hayward -- who believes he'll be ready to go when offseason activities start up again -- said he's excited about heading into 2015 is the fact many of the leaders will be returning to the gridiron after fully learning what Kotwica wants from the unit.
"You get a coach and some of the players he values as leaders together and that's going to be great," he said. "That's the same thing with all this. You get new coaches, you get new schemes, try to find who can play what compared to how it was last year [throwing] it together… it's not going to work out great always right away, so it's something you build on."