Washington Redskins: A New GM's Dilemma

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Washington Redskins: A New GM's Dilemma
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As I sat and watched the Monday Night Football debacle last night, they kept flashing the camera up to the booth to show Bruce Allen, the new general manager of the Washington Redskins.

I kept wondering what he might be thinking as he watched his newly inherited team mail it in for the first half of the game.

From what I remember of Bruce Allen's reign as GM in both Oakland and Tampa Bay, he had a reputation for signing a lot of mid-level, veteran free agents, giving his coaches an abundance of depth and a variety of options to work with. The Redskins need just that.

Then I started thinking about what I would do if that job was mine—you know, besides adding a 65" TV and an Xbox to my office so I could challenge all the coaches to a game of Madden.

Here is a breakdown of each area of the team, from my point of view.

 

The Offense

Quarterback

As I mentioned in my column a few weeks ago, I believe that Jason Campbell is a very serviceable quarterback. Against the Giants, he looked awful, but how good can a guy be when his receivers are constantly covered, he gets hit within two seconds of snapping the ball, and his offensive play-caller refuses to work out of the shotgun, despite being down 24-0?

Allen might want to think about a new backup quarterback though. Todd Collins needs to be replaced with a young draft pick with some upside and, what do you call it? Oh yeah...talent.

 

Running Backs

This is a tough call. Both Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts are decent backs, but got hurt. At the very least they could use a good change-of-pace back with some speed. Other than that, they just had some bad injury luck this year.

 

Receivers

This group is either really terrible, or the game plan really blows. I think it's both. Santana Moss only shows up for two or three games per year, Antwaan Randle-El has been a free agent bust, and there is no one else showing signs of life.

This group needs a solid, veteran free agent and a couple of good draft picks. The only bright spot is Chris Cooley, but he's injured. There’s a reason the Redskins didn’t throw the ball farther than five yards from the line of scrimmage on their first three drives last night.

Not only do the receivers hurt the passing game, but they block on running plays like they’re going to contract H1N1 if they touch anyone. It’s pitiful.

 

Offensive Line

I realize that the Redskins have had injuries here, but just in case they haven’t noticed, injuries happen every year in the NFL. The depth on the line is terrible.

On one play last night, Justin Tuck took one step like he was going wide and then stunted to the inside behind the tackle. This standard pass-rush technique completely fooled the Redskins right guard and he took a free shot at Campbell. Coaching also has an affect here. I rarely saw the backs chipping or max-protect schemes, despite the Giants' pass rush getting to Campbell on every play.

 

The Defense

A real eye-opener for me was the television crew flashing the stat on red zone effectiveness for the Redskins defense. They ranked first in the league in RZ TD percentage, with only 29 percent.

That is phenomenal. Championships are built on the back of red zone effectiveness, both offensively and defensively. That’s an Albert Haynesworth-size indicator that the 'Skins defense is well put together.



Defensive Line

The defensive line is pretty stout, especially with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Albert Haynesworth in the middle. The downside to Haynesworth has always been that he gets nicked up throughout the year, so it wouldn’t hurt the 'Skins to acquire a solid tackle in the draft to rotate in every third or fourth series just to give him a rest.

Andre Carter and Philip Daniels are both very capable starters at defensive end, but neither is exceptional.



Linebackers

London Fletcher is still patrolling the middle like a demon, and Brian Orakpo seems to have added a pass-rush presence that the Redskins haven't had for a while. The linebacker group has good starting talent and decent depth as well.



Defensive Backs

LaRon Landry is a fantastic player, as long as he's used more in the strong safety role rather than as a free safety. He's a big hitter and does a decent job over the tight end in coverage.

Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall do a solid job in man coverage, although Hall will get caught gambling at times. Hall is also a liability in run support, given that he tackles as well as Jay Cutler avoids interceptions. Fred Smoot provides decent veteran depth and is good as a nickel corner, but is another player that avoids tackling whenever possible.

The Redskins could use some young depth here, and possibly an upgrade at the safety position over Chris Horton.

 

Coaching

Jim Zorn just does not seem like a head coach. He looks lost on the field, his team plays sloppy, and he doesn’t seem capable of making the adjustments needed. A new head coach is needed, badly.

The Sherm Lewis experiment is a disaster. How do you run a team when Lewis calls the passing plays, another assistant calls the running plays, and Zorn calls plays inside two minutes? Scrap this terrible idea and have the offensive coordinator call plays, just like on any other team.

Greg Blache deserves to not only keep his job, but to get a big fat raise, and possibly a shot at the head coach position. He’s worked wonders with the defense this year.

 

Overall

In the end, if Allen could overhaul the offensive line and the receiving corps while adding some depth in a few other areas, I really believe the talent on the team is capable of making the playoffs.

The coaching changes will be a bit trickier. Almost everyone says that Jim Zorn is a great guy, and that makes it harder to cut him loose while still maintaining decent morale.

That said, if the Redskins really do have a shot at Mike Shanahan, the team wouldn't be in mourning over Zorn for long. Shanahan could turn Campbell into a top 10 quarterback and revive a running game that needs some work.

 

Terrible Calls of the Night

Down 24-0 and in a 3rd-and-long situation, Sherm Lewis, Redskins play-caller extraordinaire, decided to call a fake run, fake end-around pass that took forever to develop. Not only that, but it took potential receivers out of the patterns needed to get a first down. Jason Campbell once again had no one to throw to, and took a huge hit. There's a reason Sherm Lewis wasn't still in the NFL.

At the end of the first half, the Redskins had worked themselves into field goal position. Before the snap of the ball, they motioned five or six players way to the left and had the Giants confused. Tom Coughlin called a timeout. I liked the original ingenuity here.

However, when they came back after the timeout, the Redskins did the exact same thing, only this time the Giants were ready for it. As predicted, the play disintegrated faster than a buffet at Vince Wilfork’s house. Why would you call the exact same play when the element of surprise had been lost?

 

Great Call of the Night

The Giants called a beautiful middle screen to Ahmad Bradshaw in the red zone on the opening drive. Bradshaw should have finished it for a TD, but looked a little tentative.

What made it great, however, was how well Bradshaw and the offensive linemen sold it. The tackles and guards set up like pass protection, pushing pass rushers wide while Bradshaw stepped up in the pocket to "pick up the blitz". At the last minute, he turned for the ball, while the center stepped up to pick up a linebacker. Great call.

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