5 Biggest Problems the Washington Redskins Must Resolve Before 2013 Season
The Washington Redskins wrapped up mandatory minicamp June 12, one day earlier than scheduled, and the team now moves into its version of a "summer recess." During this time, coaches will meet to address problems remaining with the team and the best course of action to have them resolved before Week 1.
Players will still participate in weight lifting and position meetings at Redskins Park, while the coaching staff will continue to evaluate and assess which players to retain to best complete the 53-man roster.
This six-week "summer recess" concludes when the team's official training camp begins July 25 in Richmond, Va.
While the coaching staff ultimately looks to trim the roster, earlier this week the Redskins announced they signed two veteran wide receivers—Donte' Stallworth, who left the Redskins in 2011, and Devery Henderson, according to NFL.com.
With the conclusion of mandatory minicamp, the Redskins had their last scheduled press conferences Wednesday. Head coach Mike Shanahan, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan each addressed questions from the media.
Over the next few months, the Redskins have five pressing issues that merit much-needed attention prior to the start of the 2013 NFL season.
Continuity, Chemistry and Cohesion
Continuity breeds success and there is no finer example of that than in professional sports. In the NFL, and the Redskins in particular, the offense and defense are called "units" for a reason. All of the players need to be on the same page, working together with a common goal.
On offense, collectively move the ball downfield and score. Defense? Prevent the opponents from scoring. If only it were that simple.
All of this comes with the three "C's" mentioned. With a lack of continuity, cohesion and chemistry comes errors—whether through miscommunication, penalties or an unfamiliarity with who does what and their assigned role at their position.
Misreads, missed tackles, missed assignments and the dreaded mistakes are all a part of the learning curve in the NFL. Unfortunately, when and if these "mis-es" continue, there is always another player anxiously pacing the sidelines—trying to make eye contact with the coach to let him know they want to enter the game and prove they could do better.
With the high number of Redskins injured last season, the team still managed to perform equally and admirably under pressure—especially when their backs were against the wall at midseason.
With many of those same injured players returning to the lineup and, in many cases, the starting positions on their unit, communication is the key. That goes for all players in any sport.
None of these professional athletes like to admit, "My bad." when all of the eyes and finger-pointing is directed toward them.
Depth at Running Back
Without a doubt in my mind, Redskins running back Alfred Morris shocked just about everybody with his rushing output last season.
Finishing second in the NFL in rushing yards, his rookie performance will probably stand as a Redskins rookie record for quite some time. The question for 2013 is, who stands behind Morris on the depth chart?
This is, perhaps, not one of the biggest concerns for the Redskins because in their mind they are preparing for Morris, Morris and more Morris as they did last season. The problem lies in deciding who is best-suited to be the Redskins' No. 2 running back; to help take some of the workload off of the workhorse Morris.
The team has several candidates, but no one among the group stands out as a sure bet.
Evan Royster filled the No. 2 spot last season. He provided key blocking for both Morris and Robert Griffin III last season, but rushed for less than 100 yards and had just 15 receptions, according to ESPN.com. The likelihood of Royster taking the No. 2 slot this season could be due to his overall good health and lack of injuries.
Roy Helu sat out all but three games last season due to a toe/foot injury. His chances are more likely than most because he has the ability to find open space once he is past the line of scrimmage and has a better skill set than Morris on third-down situations.
During a press conference June 6, Shanahan said, “Helu brings a lot to the table.”
Both rookies Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison are also in the mix for the No. 2 slot. Jamison is the more likely of the two because Thompson is recovering from a torn left ACL last year in college.
Juggling a Revamped Defensive Secondary
During his June 12 press conference, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's first 10 questions were related to the rookie secondary players acquired in this year's NFL draft.
With talented players such as David Amerson, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo all joining the team—as well as free agent E.J. Biggers—how can he best fill a secondary that was full of holes in 2012?
With the return of several previously injured players on the defensive secondary, including Brandon Meriweather and Chase Minnifield, Haslett finds himself in the enviable position of suddenly having more talent than he does positions on the field.
Haslett did his best to answer some of these issues and media questions during the press conference, particularly his assessment of his three rookies.
“I like what I see. Obviously, there’s a lot of teaching that’s involved and a lot of learning, but I think things are starting to click in for all three of them. I think all three of them are going to be good football players… We’ve kind of worked them in...I think all three of them are coming along very well.”
Later, he was asked how much the rookies can improve the overall defense.
“Well, first of all, can you play with three rookies at one time? I don’t know if that’s going to happen. We’ll see. But we’ll play the best players and I think that over time all three of guys are going to be on the field at some point. I don’t know when that’s going to be.”
Consider this a good problem to have, coach Haslett.
Rookies Learning the Complexities of the NFL
For NFL rookies, one of the most important lessons taught during rookie minicamp is what they learned while playing in college might not apply in the pros. Not the basic skills or the routes they learned, but learning the entirety of a complex NFL offense and/or defense is just that. Complex.
For the Redskins rookies, they have to adjust to new coaches, a new environment and new teammates. That's the easy part. Then comes time to sit in meetings and study the game, literally, with a playbook and video of the opposing teams. Classroom-style meetings that last for hours and are held twice a day.
They have to learn the terms, the lingo and an entirely new set of terms and terminology—an almost undecipherable language full of code names and acronyms. They become students of the game.
"Block O on or off the LOS. Alert for NUDGE vs. Mike strong. If "1" technique to playside, make "GAP" call. Vs. Triple, drive block the NT. Center plus 3 alert for audible."
On top of this complex learning process is the reality check that they may be on the field lined up against someone they rooted for a few years ago. Even worse, in the case of our rookie DBs, they line up against an NFL wide receiver who they selected every time they play Madden NFL on their game system.
The quarterbacks are faster and more accurate. The veteran wide receivers are faster than expected. Every statistic counts—tackle, missed tackle, catch or dropped ball. Whatever the case may be, today's NFL is not your father's NFL.
The only way rookies are truly going to learn and adjust to the complexities of the NFL is to experience it.
How to Better Protect RG3
FACT—All three of RG3 injuries occurred on pass plays. They weren't the zone read.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan made that point during his June 12 press conference and continued to stress the Redskins were not going to change their offense this season.
He was deliberate in his comments but not overly so as he explained to the assembled media how when RG3 is on the run, he is as concerned for his quarterback and his safety as anyone.
"It’s the scrambles and stuff like that where, when guys aren’t blocked and stuff, there’s seven guys in coverage who are coming at him from all directions going airborne to hit somebody. Those are the times when I really get worried.”
The responsibility starts with RG3. It will be incumbent upon him to get out of bounds quicker, slide before it is too late and avoid hits along the sidelines or outside the pocket. He learned the hard way from his experience last year.
With one year under his belt and three injuries that forced him to leave the game, RG3 is the first to acknowledge changes he needs to make to protect himself and his future, as he mentioned in a May 30 press conference, (via USAToday.com.)
"Being slowed down by the knee kind of slowed the game down for me because ... it made me have to get through a lot of my reads," Griffin said. "That is what I am looking forward to doing this upcoming season -- getting through every single option that I need to get through and while at the same time still being able to use my legs as a weapon."
RG3's teammate, wide receiver Santana Moss, was quoted in the same article sharing his concern for his own safety as well as his QB.
"We have to be smart playing this game, that's what it all boils down to...You're going to play this game and you're going to get banged up. As a quarterback, you've got to try to limit those knockdowns because you already get enough in the pocket."