Washington Redskins: Midseason Report Cards for Each Positional Unit

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2013

Washington Redskins: Midseason Report Cards for Each Positional Unit

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    When you're 2-5, there are not many positive reports to go around. The Washington Redskins have been blighted by fundamental problems at almost every position so far during the 2013 NFL season.

    Quarterback Robert Griffin III is stuck in limbo post-surgery and is getting little help from his wide receivers and O-line. An effective running game is being severely underused.

    Defensively, stopping the run has been a problem, but then again, so has stopping the pass. On special teams, one disaster seems to follow another.

    A hugely promising rookie pass-catcher and the performances of a much-maligned veteran are the only things that offset a series of poor grades for the Redskins at midseason.

Quarterback

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    Robert Griffin III just can't get it together.
    Robert Griffin III just can't get it together.

    Grade D

    Robert Griffin III was always going to face a challenge matching his stunning 2012 rookie form, especially after major knee surgery.

    The process has been a stunted one so far. Griffin has been able to offer only glimpses of his dual-threat brilliance while seeming to regress as a passer.

    He has completed only 59 percent of his passes and already thrown more interceptions than he did all last season.

    This is a struggling young quarterback who needs to work on his throwing mechanics.

Offensive Line

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    Griffin has suffered behind a very shaky O-line.
    Griffin has suffered behind a very shaky O-line.

    Grade D

    Of course, it might help Griffin if he wasn't frequently sent running for his life by a highly suspect offensive line. This front five has been a nightmare in pass protection.

    Specifically, the group has failed to handle pressure aimed at the middle. The result has been a quarterback too often harassed and hit.

    Even in run blocking, the undoubted strength of the group, the line has been inconsistent.

Wide Receiver

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    Pierre Garcon has not lived up to his billing as the team's No. 1 receiver.
    Pierre Garcon has not lived up to his billing as the team's No. 1 receiver.

    Grade: D

    The wide receivers have the ability to produce far more than they have. The group is routinely making little to no effort to get free from man coverage.

    That has made things too easy for opposing defenses and is exposing Griffin to greater pressure and more hits. The struggles at receiver are one of the main reasons why the offense isn't sustaining drives.

    Players like Pierre Garcon, supposedly this team's No. 1 receiver, have to do more to make their young quarterback's job easier.

    That is one legitimate side of the argument. The other is that the receivers are having to do too much to make Griffin look good.

    They are often being overlooked as Griffin hesitates to throw, or being asked to make circus catches to turn bad passes into good ones.

    Both quarterback and receivers are at fault for problems moving the ball through the air.

Running Back

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    Alfred Morris is still producing.
    Alfred Morris is still producing.

    Grade: B

    Despite being criminally underused, the running back position remains strong. That is mostly due to the continued excellence of workhorse Alfred Morris.

    He began the season struggling amid defenses paying extra attention to him while not having to worry as much about Griffin's threat as a runner.

    But gradually, Morris has reasserted himself. He is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and has four rushing touchdowns to his credit.

    So does Roy Helu Jr. He has provided credible support for Morris, at least when he has been allowed to.

    The offense and the team need more of the same from the running backs, with "more" being the key word.

Fullback

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    Darrel Young has become a top-notch fullback.
    Darrel Young has become a top-notch fullback.

    Grade: B

    Some of Darrel Young's blocking this season has been a joy to watch. It clearly wouldn't have been as much fun being on the receiving end of it.

    The converted linebacker has developed into a highly accomplished player at his position. That only makes it worse that he is not given more opportunities to lead runners through holes.

    Young's own talent as a ball-carrier and receiver is also being wasted by coaches.

Tight End

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    Rookie tight end Jordan Reed has been a rare bright spot on offense.
    Rookie tight end Jordan Reed has been a rare bright spot on offense.

    Grade: A

    This unit has adapted to the decline of Fred Davis, who was not too long ago considered one of the most promising young tight ends in football.

    Now he has been overtaken by fleet-footed and versatile rookie Jordan Reed. The third-round pick has given the Redskins a true "joker" tight end, capable of lining up anywhere and posing a mismatch in coverage.

    Reed has also received decent support from Logan Paulsen. He continues to quietly succeed at everything that is asked of him.

Defensive Line

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    Barry Cofield (96) and his fellow D-linemen have been inconsistent.
    Barry Cofield (96) and his fellow D-linemen have been inconsistent.

    Grade: D

    The defensive line looked like a real team strength heading into the season. But things haven't really played out that way.

    The problem has been inconsistency. The front three has done a decent job creating pressure. Nose tackle Barry Cofield has logged 2.5 sacks and remains a force in nickel situations.

    But the group he leads has been soft against the run. The Redskins are the 29th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL, yielding 123.4 yards per game.

    End Stephen Bowen isn't playing anywhere near the level he was for most of the last two seasons. This group also needs a youngster like Jarvis Jenkins to start dominating.

Linebacker

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    The linebackers are struggling to mask problems in front of and behind them.
    The linebackers are struggling to mask problems in front of and behind them.

    Grade: C

    It can't be easy playing linebacker in Washington's 3-4 defense. After all, there are major issues up front and glaring weaknesses at safety.

    Having to compensate for problems both in front of and behind them has sometimes proved too much for Redskins linebackers.

    There have been moments of playmaking excellence. For instance, Ryan Kerrigan is developing into a feared pass-rusher in his third season.

    Another youngster, 2010 fourth-round pick Perry Riley Jr., is increasingly making an impact at every level of the defense.

    More help from other areas would let this group shine as the obvious strength of the defense.

Cornerback

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    DeAngelo Hall has earned his position unit a respectable grade.
    DeAngelo Hall has earned his position unit a respectable grade.

    Grade: C

    It may seem odd to give the cornerbacks who form part of the league's 27th-ranked pass defense a C. But the performances of one player merit that grade.

    DeAngelo Hall, often a divisive figure thanks to his acerbic tongue, has performed above expectations so far this season. In particular, Hall has excelled against some of the best wideouts in the game.

    He kept Detroit Lions ace Calvin Johnson relatively quiet in Week 3. He as good as shut down Dallas Cowboys maverick star Dez Bryant in Week 6.

    Hall repeated that trick against Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears the following week.

    Hall's efforts have made up for some shaky showings from the normally reliable Josh Wilson, along with some first-year struggles for rookie David Amerson.

Safety

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    Brandon Meriweather has been at the heart of an abysmal position group.
    Brandon Meriweather has been at the heart of an abysmal position group.

    Grade: F

    The safety position has been the bane of the defense almost every week. No matter what combination defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has tried, the performances have remained poor.

    Veterans like Brandon Meriweather have been reckless and mistake-prone. Youngsters have fared no better, as rookie Bacarri Rambo lost his starting job in next to no time.

    Sadly, with such a dearth of talent at the position, it's not clear what the Redskins can do to fix perhaps the biggest weakness on the team.

Special Teams

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    The special teams have been a catastrophe.
    The special teams have been a catastrophe.

    Grade: F

    Hardly anything has gone right for the special teams this season. Kicking, coverage and returns have all been abysmal.

    In fact, the only thing the unit has managed to do consistently is make game-changing errors. Even during the last two weeks, when the overall performances have been better, key mistakes have still occurred.

    New coordinator Keith Burns has not managed to get his schemes to translate to success on the field. He faces a major challenge to fix all the problems.

Coaching

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    The coaches are struggling to get things right in any phase of the game.
    The coaches are struggling to get things right in any phase of the game.

    Grade: F

    The collective grade for the coaches is a tough one, but there is little choice after they have struggled to get things right in any phase of the game.

    Defensively, Jim Haslett has produced two good game plans out of seven. They came against the Oakland Raiders in Week 4 and for three quarters against the Denver Broncos in Week 8.

    Haslett's group also played tough against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. He is admittedly not being helped by offensive game plans that only increase the pressure on his beleaguered unit.

    While Haslett has not found the right balance between scheming and simply letting the talent flourish, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan seems to resent the idea of balance.

    His play-calling has been too often skewed toward the pass, even though the strength of his offense is the run. As he always does, the younger Shanahan has designed some brilliant individual plays, but they have not formed a part of any coherent strategy.

    In truth, though, both coordinators are suffering thanks to decisions made at the top. Head coach Mike Shanahan is ultimately responsible for the direction on gameday.

    When that direction is allowed to change so abruptly each week, it is little wonder that Shanahan's team still resembles a group without an identity on either side of the ball.