How the Washington Redskins Can Right the Ship

Ed SheahinCorrespondent IOctober 14, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13:  Jason Campbell #17 of the Washington Redskins throws a pass against the New York Giants on September 13, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Needless to say, the 2-3 Redskins have underachieved to this point in the season.  

Game by game, their season is slowly slipping away. They have an anemic and unimaginative offense, their defense has allowed a disappointing 41.2 percent of third-down conversions, and the special teams have been less than special.

With two home games on the horizon, one against the 0-5 Chiefs and the other against division rival Philadelphia on Monday night, the Redskins can circle the wagon one last time to salvage the 2009 season.

But changes need to be made—drastic changes, at that. To date, Redskins coach Jim Zorn’s offensive approach to moving the ball via the West Coast offense has been ineffective and mind-numbing, to say the least.

With LT Chris Samuels out for an unknown amount of time, the Redskins’ offensive line heading in to the Kansas City game now gives new meaning to the description “patchwork.” Outside of LG Derrick Dockery, the remaining linemen would have trouble starting for any other offensive line in the NFL.

At 28, RB Clinton Portis is running the ball like he is 38. This is due in part to the bone spurs on his ankles, which flair up on occasion. Additionally, he is running behind a line incapable of creating enough space for a gazelle to run through.

The result? Through five games the Redskins offense has scored a total of seven touchdowns—three more than San Francisco’s defense has put on the board this season.

With a makeshift line and flustered running back, it is time for change in Washington.  This time, real change!

If Zorn truly wants to save his job, he has to be willing to trash his current offensive approach. It is time to break out the June Jones “Red Gun” offensive attack.

Maybe it is too late in the season to make such a change, but Campbell and the offense have seen their greatest success running the “no-huddle” spread offense.

With weapons like WRs Marko Mitchell, Devin Thomas, Antwaan Randle El, and TE Fred Davis rotting away on the sidelines, Zorn must utilize his entire arsenal. He should let Campbell air it out with a four or five-receiver set.

Campbell’s strength is his ability to hit receivers in motion on short routes. If Zorn were to spread the field, allow WR Santana Moss and TE Chris Cooley to operate against one-on-one coverage, and allow Campbell to connect on short three-step drop routes, the Redskins receivers will only need to break one tackle to pick up huge gains.

The “Red Gun” will allow Campbell to deliver the ball quickly, thus mitigating the impact of an offensive line in shambles.     

Campbell may end up throwing the ball 50-plus times a game, and turnovers are part of the deal. Zorn, however, would add life to an offense already on life support.

Pick plays, slants, curls, and receiver bubble screens are all part of the package in the “Red Gun” offense. It is all about putting pressure on the defense. One missed tackle or an untimely blitz could result in six points. 

Right now, the Redskins' offense is extremely predictable. Defenses sit back and allow them to shoot themselves in the foot. It is time to turn the tables. It is time to go on the attack.

Statistically, the Redskins' defense has been one of the best in the league, allowing opponents a mere 290 yards per game.

Statistics do not win football games. 

Several weeks ago, defensive coordinator Greg Blache said he would “take more chances” to get opposing offenses off the field. We have seen very little change to this point. 

LB/DE Brian Orakpo is still dropping back in pass coverage, DT Albert Haynesworth is hurt every other play, and S LaRon Landry still sits 30 yards deep.

The Redskins defense needs to take chances and force turnovers. The bend-but-don’t-break philosophy only works when you have the lead and a productive running game—two things the Redskins haven't seen much of in 2009.

Orakpo needs to be on the line of scrimmage to chase down quarterbacks and force running backs to the inside. He has Lawrence Taylor size and speed (in no way am I saying he is in the same class as LT), and should be used accordingly. The same mistake was made with Lavar Arrington—do we need to relive it with Orakpo?

Although he has been a force at times, Haynesworth is out of shape and can only play half a game at full speed. Rookie DE Jeremy Jarmon has proved he can move inside on passing downs and apply pressure on the quarterback. Blache needs to use him more.

As for Landry, it is hard for him to be a factor if he assigned to protecting the goal line.  He excels at getting to the quarterback when blitzing from the outside. And when he hits the quarterback, they feel it. Turn him loose!

Finally, the special teams are in need of a facelift in the form of Devin Thomas. Sure, RB Rock Cartwright will get you 25 yards on every return.

But with a struggling offense, big plays in the return game are a must. The same applies to the dependable Randle El returning punts (the team can rely on him for 15 yards a return—horizontally). Put Thomas back on all kick returns and let the kid make some plays.

Of course these solutions are easier said than done, but what does Zorn have to lose at this point? He is a dead man walking, and if he really wants to keep his job, it is time to “kick the tires and light the fires, big daddy!”

(And yes, I just quoted Harry Connick, Jr., from Independence Day.)