RICHMOND, Va. -- It's no secret that one of the main focuses in training camp for the Washington Redskins is the special teams unit after it finished near the bottom of the league in 2013.
But with the implementation of a new practicing schedule, proposed by new special teams coach Ben Kotwica, gaining the support of the head coach Jay Gruden, the special teams might make bigger strides than anyone even expects.
"A lot of teams have special teams in practice," Gruden said. "It just kind of disrupts the flow. Coach [Ben] Kotwica wanted to get the special teams done first -- a big 15-minute period done first where they are focused in on it, they're fresh, everybody's involved in it and it's worked out very well so far."
There have been several players rotating in and out returning kicks and punts, but newly acquired wide receiver Andre Roberts has been getting the first go at it with the first team so far this training camp, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I did it all through college," Roberts said. "Well, punt return I did all through college, and I did it my whole rookie year in Arizona, punt returns and a little bit of kick returns. I started in Arizona my second and third year, so usually starters don't really get the opportunity, but I've always kind of wanted to [return kicks and punts] and when I had the opportunity to do it here I'm just trying to be in that position again."
And from what the coaches have been telling him, it seems like the job is his to lose.
"So far," Roberts said of being the first team kick and punt returner. "You never know during the course of a season what's going to happen, but for right now they have me doing both and I'm enjoying it."
For other players whose jobs are not as secure as Roberts, special teams will also be an area that they might be able to find a niche in and make the team.
The coaches from day one have preached fundamentals, especially on special teams. So if players on the fringe of making the team can stay in their lanes and make tackles then they will be heading in the right direction for a roster spot.
It's still early to be putting too much stock into how rookies are looking so far this training camp, especially when most are not getting first team reps. But there are several Washington Redskins rookies who have shown promise and seem like they will eventually make an impact.
Defensive end Trent Murphy, the team's first draft choice in 2014, which came in the mid-second round, has shown glimpses of the versatility a player at his position needs in a 3-4 front. He's been working in with mostly the second team, and has had the occasional snap with the first, but he doesn't seem to look lost and isn't being manhandled by anybody. Murphy even showed his ability to cover the flats by deflecting a pass intended for running back Roy Helu Jr.
Fourth-round pick, cornerback Bashaud Breeland has also stood out so far at camp. Coming out of Clemson, Breeland has a long body and good ball skills and is rumored to be able to play safety too. He has already shown his good instincts by jumping in front and breaking up a handful of passes in this camp.
Lache Seastrunk is a home run-hitting running back with power and speed out of Baylor, which is why the Redskins grabbed him with their sixth-round pick in 2014, hoping that those skills can translate to the NFL. He hasn't exactly stood out yet, but he has gotten some reps returning kicks and punts and on one play in particular during 11-on-11 drills July 26 he showed his ability to get to the edge quickly and pick up a nice gain.
However, not all rookies are going to get off to such hot starts. The Redskins 2014 third-round pick, offensive tackle Morgan Moses, has struggled so far in camp. He has gotten beat one-on-one several times and just doesn't seem very well adjusted to the speed of the pro game. It is still early for him though, and if the coaching staff can work on his mechanics and timing, it is their hope that he can one day challenge starting right tackle Tyler Polumbus for his job.