He may have wasted no time making his mind up about Reed, but Gruden will need to give his punters a longer look. Both Robert Malone and Blake Clingan have endured inconsistent performances during OTAs.
Competition is a good thing, but neither has been able to forge ahead as a viable solution at a problem position. Real Redskins blogger Rich Tandler has even suggested the team adding a third face to the battle can't be ruled out:
The two punters on the team, Robert Malone and Blake Clingan, have kicked some during the OTAs that have been open to the media but neither has made much an impression. Between the two I’d have to say that Malone, who has some NFL punting experience, is the favorite. But there is a good chance that a player named “none of the above” ends up punting against the Texans in Week 1. If neither is getting the job done in the preseason, a veteran punter could be pulled off of the street.
What has to be concerning are the feeble credentials of the two players Washington is tasking to replace the dismal Sav Rocca. ESPN.com reporter John Keim detailed Malone and Clingan's disappointing respective track records:
But Malone lasted two games and 16 punts last season, done in by inconsistency. While his hang time can be terrific, he's also prone to line-drive kicks. That helps explain why he he was cut despite a 46.3 yard average in 2013. He had just a 37.1 yard net.
Meanwhile, Blake Clingan last punted in a meaningful game in 2010 at Central Florida. Detroit cut him last summer after he averaged 41.5 yards on 13 punts in the preseason. The 25-year-old has zero career NFL punts.
Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen put a lot of work into fixing 2013's horrific special teams. They have significantly bolstered the coverage units with free agents like Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward.
But the kicking game remains an area in serious flux. Rocca endured a terrible campaign last season. His feeble kicks put already shaky coverage units in trouble more than once. They also meant the defense usually faced a losing battle trying to protect short fields.
Keim has noted that Gruden is currently endorsing both would-be starting punters. But his words are likely mere coaching platitudes at this point.
However, it's probably not unreasonable to suppose Malone's connection with new special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica gives him the inside track.
But given how much punting was an issue last season, both players have so far wasted an opportunity for an easy run at a starting job.