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Redskins Looking At Special Teams Tactics With New Touchback Rule

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Special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica has been developing the team's onside kick coverage as he looks to find more depth entering training camp.

While the Redskins believe there are many more answers than question marks heading into training camp this year, head coach Jay Gruden and his staff believe there is still room to improve, especially as it relates to the depth on special teams.

Even with Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen and Adam Hayward returning from injury to provide more experience and options on kickoffs and punts, this time of year is always about finding several young players that stand out in their brief allotted time on the field.

The Washington Redskins held minicamp practice Wednesday, June 15, 2016, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

"Special teams is probably an area that we have got to find some players stepping up – the flyers and the punt protectors and punt team and all that good stuff, kick cover guys," Gruden said. "Overall, once you get to training camp, you're going to have your 90 guys, let them compete, play the games and then see what you need to do. But we feel good about the depth we have on this football team."

On Wednesday, the special teams unit spent a good amount of time emphasizing kick coverages and onside kicks, something that's taken a bit more precedent this offseason thanks to the league's recent rule changes.

In an effort by the NFL to cut down the amount of kickoffs returned, in an effort to prevent injuries, the touchback will be placed at the 25-yard line, giving teams an extra five yards but incidentally more room to get creative with both their kickoffs and return team.

"It changes a little bit of your tactics and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out," special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica said after Wednesday's minicamp practice. "We've worked on a few different variables on how we want to deliver the football and it also affects the way you return it so we have a couple options that we can employ as far as kickoff and kickoff returns. Dustin [Hopkins] on the kickoff side has done an excellent job of doing that for us."

During this time of the year, Kotwica has more time to work on situational drills like the onside kick, giving the hands team the special attention they might not be able to receive in training camp. Kotwica doesn't believe the surprise onside kick will see a drastic increase this year, but does think it's becoming more of a trend.

"I think you have seen a few more surprise onside kicks," he said. "The other thing to me is with the touchback and now you're giving the ball at the 25 so are teams more inclined to say 'OK, well if I surprise onside kick this now I'm not losing as many yards because if I had kicked the touchback…' So we've worked on both of those elements. We'll plan at the end of the game and surprise elements over the course of the game."

The additions of veterans such as David Bruton Jr. and Terence Garvin has already had an impact on younger players, Kotwica noticed, and he believes rookies Su'a Cravens and Kendall Fuller have a lot of potential. Of course, with the team practicing without pads, it's difficult for Kotwica to determine the kinds of players he has at his disposal just yet.

"Until you get some live action though it's tough, so you try to practice it as best as you can," Kotwica said. "I think Jay [Gruden's] done an excellent job of giving us enough time to practice different options and the players have taken to it so I'm encouraged about where we're going into this summer."

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