A look at the Redskins' new special teams

There hasn't been much change this offseason for the defending division champion Washington Redskins, but two of the most significant departures they'll feel as they begin their minicamp this week are on special teams. Longtime coordinator Danny Smith left for Pittsburgh and longtime special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander signed with Arizona in the hopes of playing more linebacker.

Rich Campbell of the Washington Times has a story about the scheme changes on special teams under new coordinator Keith Burns. Example:

Tight end Niles Paul, Washington’s third-leading special teams tackler last season behind Alexander and Reed Doughty, explained how Burns has assigned those on the kickoff coverage team different responsibilities than they had under Smith.

As a result, the Redskins will have four “people coming in hot to the ball making the play” instead of the two they had last season.

“It’s different rules,” Paul said. “You’re in different areas. Now I have the freedom to kind of roam, so I’m loving that one.”

Should be interesting to watch and see what the differences are, especially for those fans who were quick to criticize Smith for the Redskins' poor results on special teams. But I still think special teams more often than not comes down to individual effort, and for that reason I expect that Alexander's departure will have a greater impact than that of Smith. Alexander was the unit's inspirational leader, hardest worker and most serious and devoted practitioner. Doubtless, the players who played special teams with Alexander will continue to play the way he helped teach and inspire them to play. But it remains to be seen whether the Redskins' special teams unit can replace Alexander's production and energy.