For the past 10 years or so, Redskins fans have become accustomed to teams with bad offense and solid defense.
My, how the script has been flipped.
The Redskins have a terrible defense in 2012, coupled with the league's highest-scoring offense. But just because the Redskins have put almost 100 points on the board in three games doesn't mean that there's no room for improvement. In fact, the Redskins absolutely must improve in the following three areas or risk falling to the bottom of the NFL.
1. Keeping RGIII upright.
Washington's franchise quarterback won't last the season unless the Redskins can find a way to protect him. RGIII has taken nine sacks and countless hard hits in three games, including a couple of brutal shots against Cincinnati on Sunday.
The offensive line needs to block better, but there's another issue at play: the utilization of RGIII's legs. It's great how effectively Kyle Shanahan has woven the read-option play into the Redskins' offense, but RGIII simply won't be able to stay injury-free if he keeps running it so often.
The Redskins need to address this by placing more emphasis on getting Alfred Morris his carries (he should be around 20 to 23 per game) and the other running backs, and only using the read-option or QB draw on short-yardage situations. I don't particularly like seeing RGIII pull the ball out and run on 1st-and-10. I would rather see him give the defense fits on 3rd-and-4.
2. Gaining yards on first down.
While the Redskins have been successful at moving the ball with some consistency, especially on the ground, there remains a huge problem that has stymied many a drive for RGIII and company. Simply put, this team doesn't gain yards on first down.
So far in 2012, the Redskins are averaging 8.86 yards to go on second down. Too often, they have a two-yard run or an incomplete pass on first down. Add in to that four first-down sacks, and it's obvious why this team sometimes struggles to consistently put drives together.
Most of this falls on the offense and the execution of the plays, but a measure of blame can be doled out to Kyle Shanahan for being far too conservative on first down. I believe that Shanahan needs to utilize more play-action and some faster-developing runs to combat this issue.
3. Converting on third down.
You'd think that with a dual-threat quarterback, a powerful running back, a solid tight end, a possession receiver and a deep-threat receiver, third down wouldn't be too much of a problem.
Yet with all of those weapons, the Redskins rank 31st in the NFL with a 27.5 percent conversion rate on third down. That is simply unacceptable.
The Redskins have scored more points than any team in the league, but they won't keep it up if they can't convert on third down.
There's another aspect to this: Converting on third down keeps the opposing offense off the field, and that may be the only way the Redskins can keep the score within reason. The best defense is a great offense, and keeping the other team off the field will give the Skins' maligned defense more time to rest up and game-plan.