5 Burning Questions the Washington Redskins Still Must Answer
Sitting uncomfortably at 1-3, the Washington Redskins still have a shot at the playoffs by virtue of the once-vaunted NFC East falling to pieces so far this season. This may seem shocking, especially considering the abysmal defense and the out-of-sync offense they've fielded through four games, but they're still alive.
Blunted optimism aside, there are a lot of burning questions the 'Skins need to answer before the whole season goes up in flames.
With plenty of games left to be played before the panic button comes into play, no one should be calling for the heads of any coaches just yet, but it is reaching that point. Jim Haslett, Robert Griffin III, Mike Shanahan, the secondary, the defense as a whole and special teams...
Here are some of the biggest questions the Redskins still have to answer this season.
Is There Any Way to Improve Special Teams?
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Gone are the days of Danny Smith trudging the sidelines with a wad of gum is his cheek, but the on-field product is largely identical to that of Smiths' special teams coaching.
Aside from solid kicking from Kai Forbath and John Potter, who filled in for Forbath while he nursed a groin injury, there is nothing to get excited about on special teams.
Sav Roccas has had some awful punts in addition to having one of his punts blocked and recovered for a touchdown. There is no return game to speak of, which is disheartening because of the promise shown by rookie Chris Thompson during preseason.
The Redskins have tried using Josh Morgan to return punts, but it hasn't proven any better than Thompson's efforts.
More than anything, there needs to be an understanding that it is okay to settle for positive yardage. It is better to finish forward than trying to find a seam running east to west, or completely backwards.
Have Jordan Reed and Logan Paulsen Made Fred Davis Expendable?
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Injuries aside, Jordan Reed and Logan Paulsen have made a bigger impact on offense than Fred Davis this season, which is troubling considering the measures the Redskins have taken to retain him through his suspension in 2011 and his injury last season.
Davis is supposed to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL, but he has three catches for 25 yards while Paulsen and Reed have combined for 21 catches, 216 yards and a touchdown.
Chalk it up to this being his return from a torn Achilles in 2012, but that doesn't cover all over it. He may not be up to the same speed or strength, but he should be able to get open, get on the field or do something, right?
Reed may not be the sexy deep-threat tight end that the NFL is moving towards these days, but he makes catches and has improved as a blocker. Davis has never been much of a blocker, and his physical gifts don't seem to be helping him much of late.
Is Jim Haslett on the Hot Seat?
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Washington's defense is ranked 31st in yards per game allowed but cashed in on an overwhelmed Oakland Raiders offensive line in Week 4 to jump up to second in the NFL with 15 total sacks.
Jim Haslett had to be feeling the pressure after his team allowed an average of 488 yards through the first three weeks of the season. His defense responded by holding the Raiders to 298 yards of total offense.
A great rebound game for sure, particularly with the pick-six from rookie David Amerson and the seven sacks recorded, but is it a product of playing a bad team or a sign of things to come?
Haslett bought himself time by scaling back his blitz packages, opting for more balance than he had in the first three weeks. Even so, does it make him untouchable? Hardly.
One game does not a season make, and Haslett will need to put together a few more games holding opponents under 300 yards of offense before he can rest easy knowing he still has a job.
Is RGIII's Best Year Behind Him?
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In a video interview with Sporting News, Troy Aikman said, "I don't know that we'll ever see the same guy we saw last year" which raised a very valid concern that we're all seeing play out on the field this season.
You can see it when he tries to take off and run, when he doesn't plant his right foot and when he overthrows targets he was hitting with dead-eye accuracy as a rookie.
There is something wrong with Robert Griffin III, and more than likely it is a mental thing. It takes time to recover physically from the type of injury RGIII suffered, but there's no timeline for his mind being right. Maybe the mere presence of the brace is holding him back, as if just having it on makes him feel as though he can't take off and run, or make the types of throws he was making last season.
More than likely, Griffin will look more like himself as the season wears on, but it remains to be seen if he can be the guy who turns a 10 or 15-yard scamper into a 70-yard touchdown.
It wouldn't be so troubling if he wasn't missing a lot of easy throws by large margins, but that part will come in time, as he settles back into the comfort and chemistry with his teammates.
Should the Offense Move to Running Back by Committee?
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With the read option falling by the wayside because of RGIII's limited mobility, the Redskins offense lacks the unpredictability and multiple threats that made it so formidable last season. What few read option plays they have run, Griffin has not made much of a threat to take it to the house, which affects the ground game.
Now, with Alfred Morris nursing a rib injury and Roy Helu showing his value, would it be wise to move away from the feature-back offense?
Until RGIII can prove otherwise, the Redskins need to treat him like any other quarterback and run an offense with more standard running plays. Morris saw immense success as a rookie because the threat Griffin posed, but now that the threat is gone, the sledding's a bit tough for Morris.
Helu is coming off of injuries that saw him on IR for most of the 2012 season, and looked great in relief of Morris. Helu is the speedier of the two, but showed against the Oakland Raiders that he doesn't go down so easily.