Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants: Takeaways from Washington's 6-20 Loss
The only positives came from the defense. The unit's showing proved that talent has been wasted by poor coaching.
Unfortunately, any positives on that side of the ball were balanced out by a slew of negative takeaways from the performance of the offense.
They include a second porous showing by quarterback Kirk Cousins. There is also a growing trend of running back Alfred Morris putting the ball on the ground.
Here is the full list of takeaways from the final game of a forgettable campaign for the Redskins.
Kirk Cousins Is No Franchise Saviour
Throwing for nearly 400 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15 may have created the illusory assumption that Kirk Cousins is starter material.
That impression has since been wiped after two dismal showings from 2012's fourth-round pick. Cousins struggled somewhat last week against the Dallas Cowboys but was downright awful against the Giants.
What was so disappointing, was how the positive aspects of his game seemed to desert him. Cousins has looked good progressing through his reads and spreading the ball around.
Those are two qualities Robert Griffin III has yet to master. But Cousins could do neither against Big Blue.
His passes toward the sideline were simply dreadful. Cousins was also wayward on a number of throws over the middle.
Worst still, he seemed to lock on to receivers several times in the face of pressure. These are the kind of things that sent Griffin to the bench.
But this game provided conclusive proof that Griffin is still the best bet for the Redskins.
Ball Security Is Becoming a Major Issue for Alfred Morris
Alfred Morris is putting the ball on the ground too often. It has now become something that will earn him a reputation as a ball-carrier who can't be completely trusted.
Morris coughed it up against the Giants, and whenever he enters a pile, Redskins fans now have a right to be very nervous. Morris is a talented runner who draws a lot of hits and contact, but that is all the more reason to emphasize ball security.
Every opponent the Redskins face in 2014 will have noted Morris' troubles with the ball this season. The two-time 1,000-yard runner must make a commitment to remedying his issues in this area during the offseason.
Next Season's Offense Has to Spread the Ball Around More Often
Whoever runs this team and its offense in 2014 has to make more use of all available weapons. The final game of the season continued the trend of underusing several playmakers.
Running back Roy Helu Jr. had only three carries and two catches. That is simply not enough touches for the versatile speedster, but he wasn't the only one left out in the cold.
Despite being active, tight end Fred Davis didn't see a single pass come his way. Davis is an athletic, "move" player at his position but has been ignored by the coaches.
A new offense must be defined by the effort to get every talented body involved in creative ways.
The Offensive Line Needs More Power and Size Inside
Whether this team plays a zone-blocking scheme or not, its offensive line needs more size and power inside. The Redskins have been bullied physically along the interior all season.
Right guard Chris Chester again couldn't contain Justin Tuck's inside pressure. Chester, center Will Montgomery and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger were also pushed around in the running game.
Big Blue defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins toyed with this lightweight interior trio. The Redskins must find more imposing and dominant interior blockers, even if it means sacrificing mobility for size.
Talent Has Been Wasted on Defense
The Washington defense certainly isn't a dominant unit. But it is definitely better than its performances and numbers this season would suggest.
Simply put, talent has been wasted by indecisive and unimaginative coaching. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett seemed unencumbered by those problems in Week 17. He unleashed a lot of different looks and pressures that stifled the Giants.
His plans were helped by some standout performances, particularly up front. Defensive linemen like Chris Baker, Chris Neild and Jarvis Jenkins caused plenty of disruption.
But the question is why did Haslett wait until the season's final game to show the full range of what is possible with this scheme and its personnel?
The kind of creativity shown in New Jersey should have been evident throughout the season. The fact that it hasn't been has meant a lot of talent going to waste.
Perry Riley Jr. and Chris Baker Are Two Free Agents the Team Should Keep
The obvious priority in free agency will be retaining outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. But the Redskins shouldn't forget about two less heralded members of their defense.
Inside linebacker Perry Riley Jr. and defensive lineman Chris Baker should both be brought back. The pair produced strong performances against the Giants and have developed well in recent weeks.
Riley led all linebackers with four tackles and notched a sack. He even managed to be a factor against the pass, filling various lanes to turn away throws on third down.
The fourth-year pro has improved a lot this season. He is emerging as a versatile playmaker in this scheme and a natural leader of the defense.
Baker was even more impressive against Big Blue. He led all linemen with seven combined tackles, including six solo stops.
The 26-year-old routinely powered his way into the backfield. That kind of penetration has been in short supply this season.
Baker is raw but could be a truly disruptive force if given more chances.
David Amerson Needs a Bigger Role Next Season
Rookie cornerback David Amerson has not been given enough chances to impress this season. He needs a bigger and different role next season.
The team's top draft pick this year looked good against the Giants. He broke on the ball to swat away a pair of passes, and his tackling was sure.
Amerson has real potential, but he must be put into a scheme that better suits his size. The 6'1", 205-pounder could thrive as a press-corner next season.
Mike Shanahan's Imminent Exit Is Overdue
Mike Shanahan got lucky in 2012. He unleashed Robert Griffin III and the read-option on a league not ready for either.
But the lone winning record of his four years in charge of the Redskins merely masked the catalogue of failures that have defined his tenure.
That tenure now appears set to come to an overdue end. The Washington Post's Mark Maske and Mike Jones are already prepared to state time will be called on Shanahan with this dreadful season now in the books:
One person with knowledge of the matter said Sunday that Shanahan “definitely” will be dismissed and the only question is whether the move will come Sunday night or Monday.
Another person with ties to the organization said Saturday night the move was certain and is expected to come Monday.
He hasn't been helped by a two-year salary-cap penalty or Griffin losing an entire offseason after major surgery. But those factors can't be allowed to excuse everything Shanahan has got wrong.
These are things not determined by things outside his control such as his decision to change a top-10 defense and the subsequent failure to acquire enough of the right pieces for the new scheme.
That was followed by the trade for Donovan McNabb, a botched move seemingly fated to fail. Then there was the embarrassing merry go-round between John Beck and Rex Grossman in 2011. Shanahan just couldn't decide who his quarterback was.
That led to a desperate, quick-fix trade for Griffin. Giving away consecutive first-round picks implied Shanahan's team was only a quarterback away from seriously competing. But that was never the case.
Don't let his reputation or the context of this season fool you. Shanahan has taken a lot of wrong steps since he took over the Redskins.
The biggest takeaway from this season is that it's time for a change.