5 Things That Must Change for Washington Redskins in 2013
Washington's playoff hopes are alive and well after the Redskins pulled out an overtime victory over Baltimore on Sunday. But to be remain competitive this year and in 2013, the team will need to embrace change and address its weaknesses. It will also need to strengthen its reinforcements.
Currently, the Redskins are riding a four-game winning streak and they received promising news regarding injured signal-caller Robert Griffin III. But 2012 has taken its toll on a team that has suffered from a rash of injuries, player suspensions and inconsistent coaching.
While Washington should be commended for winning with heart and resiliency, we'll analyze what's holding back the Redskins and what will be necessary to spring them forward in the future.
1. Assistant Coaches
Smith and Banks have underperformed in 2012. (Washington Post)
Jim Haslett has been on one heck of a roller-coaster ride. In 2011, the Redskins defensive coordinator was praised for leading a unit that ranked 13th in the NFL.
He expected a better ranking this year, but the injury bug bit Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker and Brandon Merriweather.
Now, Haslett's trying to keep the remainder of his defense intact for a postseason run.
Entering Week 15, the Redskins are ranked 28th in total defense, which would normally put a third-year defensive coordinator on the hot seat. But don't be surprised if Haslett gets a chance at a fourth go-around.
First of all, he's a former head coach. He's also well-liked and a respected leader of men. But most importantly, he was hand-picked by head coach Mike Shanahan.
Meanwhile, Danny Smith may not be so lucky. His special-teams unit has been weak all year and there's been too much uncertainty surrounding a number of key players.
Return man Brandon Banks is partly to blame for not providing the electricity that made him a rising star a couple of years ago. But Washington's coverage team is mediocre at best and has given up far too many big plays.
And let's not forget the Redskins kicking conundrum. Washington had two kickers in training camp that didn't make the team, including incumbent Graham Gano. They then signed Ravens reject Billy Cundiff, but he failed miserably. Kai Forbath has been a pleasant surprise, but his success may be too little too late for Smith, who was handpicked by Joe Gibbs in 2004.
The Skins need to jump start their special teams, and a fresh new leader may do the trick in 2013.
2. Limit Penalties and Get Tempers Under Control
DeAngelo Hall got ejected for his foul-mouthed tirade with a referee. (NFL on Fox)
Penalties have thwarted the Redskins in 2012 and they've come in all shapes and sizes—from salary cap fines off the field to unsportsmanlike punishment on it.
Some of Washington's flubs have been especially ugly.
Josh Morgan threw a hissy fit in St. Louis, Kyle Shanahan chased down officials in a tunnel to speak his mind and DeAngelo Hall got ejected for screaming obscenities at a referee.
Emotions tend to get the best of players and coaches, but blowing a gasket makes the whole team look bad. As a newcomer, Morgan should have used his head. As the son of the team's head coach, Shanahan should have been punished further by the Redskins. And as a veteran and one-time captain, Hall should have know better.
Meanwhile, mental mistakes have also occurred too often.
If the Redskins are going to compete at a high level and continue to step forward, they have to rid themselves of penalties and flagrant fouls that put them two steps behind.
3. Say No to Drugs and Outside Influences
When Allen coached Washington, he preferred quiet time with his players. (Google)
The last two seasons have ended prematurely for Redskins tight end Fred Davis. But this year's Achilles' injury is quite different from what shelved Davis in 2011.
Davis and offensive tackle Trent Williams served four-game suspensions for marijuana use last season. But a couple of this year's Redskins didn't get the memo.
Free agent Tanard Jackson never made it past the preseason and may never play again after getting pinched a third time by the NFL. He is suspended indefinitely and will have his case reviewed after a year's worth of isolation.
Meanwhile, the NFL is cracking down on new drugs of choice like Adderall and Viagra, which are considered to be performance-enhancing.
Redskins cornerback Cedric Griffin paid a price for his Adderall use and the timing couldn't have been worse. He was suspended for Washington's game against Baltimore and will be absent without pay for the remainder of the regular season.
Rookie Richard Crawford played well in place of Griffin, but the Redskins certainly missed the veteran's presence at nickel back.
Perhaps Washington should to return to its roots, when coaches had the full attention of their players. When the late, great George Allen served as head coach, he shunned members of the media and the acquaintances of his players. To Allen, they were unwelcome distractions that took one's focus off of football. The games x's and o's mattered most and there was no time to pay attention to outside influences.
4. Get Healthy and Stay Healthy
Brandon Meriweather's health was snakebit in 2012. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
Washington's four-game win streak has been a thing of beauty and has the whole town in a frenzy. But amid all of the hoopla is a harsh reality. The Redskins are limping to the finish line and it only seems to be getting worse.
Questionable this week with ankle, knee and thigh ailments are London Fletcher, DeAngelo Hall and Trent Williams. All three players have played through a variety of injuries, but at 37, it's a miracle Fletcher is still standing.
Others seem to be playing on borrowed time. Is wide receiver Pierre Garcon past his foot injury? And will corner Josh Wilson have further trouble with his sore shoulder?
Then there's the Redskins biggest concern, which is at the team's most important position.
According to CBSSports.com:
Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday that quarterback Robert Griffin is day to day, leading up to Week 15 at Cleveland because of a Grade 1 LCL sprain in his right knee. He [said] there is no structural damage and that he is "definitely not ruling (Griffin) out" for Week 15. Shanahan added he isn't sure if Griffin will practice Wednesday. Kirk Cousins would start for Washington if Griffin is sidelined Sunday.
RGIII has certainly sustained his share of bumps and bruises this year, so a concerted effort must be made to deter him from being in harm's way. Reevaluation of the offense and additions to the line in front of Griffin should be priorities.
The team may also need to consider changes to its medical and training staff.
It has been painfully obvious since training camp that the Redskins need to be better prepared for the rigors of a 16-game schedule. Serious injuries happen, but garden varieties like hamstring pulls, groin strains and muscle tears are preventable.
To stay relatively healthy, the Skins must avoid bad practice habits, improper stretching and if rehabilitation efforts are poor, heads should roll on a staff that's responsible for keeping players upright.
5. Find Quality Depth and More Playmakers
Royster (22) may have competition next year as Morris' backup. (AP)
In Sunday's nail-biting win over Baltimore, rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins proved that he has the talent to be a viable backup to Robert Griffin III.
Down 28-20, Cousins spelled Griffin when the first-year phenom left the game for good after courageously trying to gut out a knee sprain. Cousins then threw a touchdown pass and calmly scrambled into the end zone for a two-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Cousins deserves a tip of the hat, but is he the long-term answer as the Redskins' No. 2 signal caller?
We all know that Rex Grossman is not, but if Griffin is out for a considerable amount of time and the Redskins make the postseason, can Cousins be trusted over a veteran who started a Super Bowl?
I'm guessing Mike Shanahan would roll the dice with Cousins, but he'll be smart to find a veteran to take Grossman's place on the roster next year.
Keep this in mind. Cousins is No. 2, but he could be trade bait for the Redskins, who are without first-round draft picks in 2013 and 2014.
Depth at other positions will also need to be addressed. Linebacker and offensive line are givens, cornerback is way past due and defensive line could use a boost.
A new running back may even be considered if Evan Royster fails to retain his backup role. Can Roy Helu make a triumphant return and add pass-catching to an attack that's spearheaded by rookie star Alfred Morris?
And how about some new playmakers? A healthy Pierre Garcon is tough to stop, but another dominant receiver could make the Redskins much harder to beat next year.
2012 is still in play, but the future is now for the Redskins. They just have to reach out and grasp it.
Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage Takip et: @JoeVersage
Unless otherwise noted, all player and statistical information is courtesy of Redskins.com, CBSSports.com and the National Football League.