Alex Brandon/Associated Press
The return unit, the kick coverage, you name it: Washington's special teams were beyond inadequate last season.
The team surrendered a league-worst 16.8 yards per punt return in 2013. And to cap off this unit's ineptitude, tight end Niles Paul and aged veteran Santana Moss, then 34, were the leading return men.
As you could expect, the team ushered in a slew of new faces during the offseason. With its acquisitions of players like kicker Zach Hocker, punter Robert Malone and linebacker Adam Hayward—signed on because of his prowess on special teams—Washington has made strides to address this glaring weakness.
This renewed commitment was also evident when the team cut ties with Brandon Jenkins.
Buried on the depth chart behind Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan as a rookie, it was telling that Jenkins only played six games last season, especially in light of the team's woes on special teams.
Due to his lack of effectiveness there, his poor showing in training camp, according to Tarik El-Bashir of CSN Washington, was all the cause the team needed to cut ties with the former fifth-round pick.
With Jenkins' ouster sending a clear message that backups will contribute on this unit if they're to make the team, players will be more inclined to buy into playing special teams. As Paul relayed to The Associated Press (via WJLA.com), this is an important factor.
"We've got guys in here that actually want to be on the teams and who know their role on this team," he said.
What the team has also got is a new special teams coach, Ben Kotwica. A former Iraq war veteran, Kotwica has used his motivation skills to create an excitement about playing on his "special forces."
In comments he made to the AP, Griffin emphasized the impact Kotwica has had on players.
"He had us so pumped up in there from his speech, I raised my hand. I was ready to run down on kickoffs," Griffin said.
As Washington aims to be the latest worst-to-first story in the NFL, any gains on special teams would aid the team in this cause.