D.C. was giddy with excitement this off season. Bruce Allen in, Vinnie Cerrato and Dan Snyder’s input into football operations out. Donovan McNabb in, Jason Campbell out. Mike Shanahan and son in, Jim Zorn out. Hell, even the switch to Burgundy and Gold at home caused quite a positive stir.
But with all this change, outside of McNabb, the roster has stayed pretty much the same and overall, really regressed. With all the excitement of bringing in new coaches, a proven QB and new uniforms, the team seems to have overlooked the fact that you need some playmakers to win games, and the Redskins are sorely lacking any on the offensive side of the ball.
While I do think McNabb is still a top flight QB, he is not the threat to run or extend a play like he used to be and he needs help. Unfortunately, the skill players he is giving the ball to are not good enough to make plays to get open or if they do get the ball, can’t make a play once they get it. This is most evident in the red zone. Against the Rams last Sunday — you know, the Rams who went 1-15 last year - who played most the game with out their starting safety, the Redskins got into the red zone and could not finish.
When your kicker has three field goals of less than 30 yards, something is very wrong. The trouble is, despite the changes in coaching — from Joe Gibbs to Jim Zorn and now Mike Shanahan, nothing has changed with the core group of players on offense. Nothing has been added. If you have ingredients to make hot dogs, no matter who is cooking, you can’t expect to be able to make filet mignon out of it.
Looking at the running back position, Clinton Portis is barely a shadow of his former self and if he saw a shadow of his former self, he would probably trip on it. There are running lanes there and he can see and read them, problem is he can hardly get to them and when he does, he can hardly keep his balance when he makes the cut back that is critical in the zone block scheme.
Even when he breaks open for more than 8 yards, he seems to be content to cover up the ball and just fall down, looking to preserve an eight yard run instead of looking to break a 50 yard run. You don’t want the best attribute of your starting running back to be pass blocking, but that is now where you would say Portis is strongest. Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams have some burst, but certainly are not playmakers and are unproven.
The receivers are actually even more troubling, which says a lot since the running back group is not really talented. I would have to say this is among the worst receiving corps in the league right now. People will point to Santana Moss, and he did have a nice game vs. the Rams and is having a good year, but in the red zone, he is non-existent. Moss is too small to throw a fade to and too easily bumped off his routes. Even when they run the wide receiver screen to Moss, it is pretty much shut down within four to seven yards. He used to be able to break those three or four years ago, but Moss has definitely lost a step or two.
The Skins have no receiver they can go to on the goal line to throw a fade, no one that really commands any attention. Opposite Moss you have Joey Galloway, Anthony Armstrong and Roydell Williams. These guys would be hard pressed to make the practice squad of any other NFL team. Devin Thomas seems to have the physical skills to be a playmaker and I really don’t know why he does not at least get a couple of chances on offense, he seems like he could inject some life into the offense and at least provide a bigger, more athletic target in the red zone. But as it stands, he is buried on the bench.
Tight end is one of the stronger positions for the Skins, but again I don’t think they are really equipped to make any plays. While Chris Cooley rarely drops a ball thrown his way, he is a step slow and not very shifty, not to mention he seems like a fumble waiting to happen when he gets hit. Fred Davis is still too inconsistent, dropping easy passes or running poor routes more often than he makes a play. He does have some better open field running skills than Cooley and seems to be athletic enough to be a tough cover for most safeties and linebackers, but still is too inconsistent to be a go to player.
If you are a defense going against the Skins, who really scares you? Who do you have to prepare for? It used to be you had to load up to stuff Portis and the run game, but Portis seems to just stop himself now. It used to be Moss could beat you deep, but now he does most damage on crossing routes. Kyle Shanahan brings a good offensive scheme that will allow it to continue to get some good yardage from their own 20 to the opponents 20, but once they are in the red zone, when the defense has less field to defend, the lack of play making on offense is painfully evident.
All the excitement of the changes for the year and nothing has really changed. The Skins offense can execute all day long and move the ball well for stretches of time. But it comes down to making plays — not just executing plays — and specifically making them in the red zone and to that end, nothing has changed. Until some people emerge – and on the current roster I think the only ones on offense with the actual skill sets to do so are Thomas and Davis — the Skins will be relying on Gano to nail 30 yard field goals and hope the defense can score the touchdowns the offense cannot.
People might say that the Houston game was what this offense can do. I think it is somewhere more in between the 6 points put up against the Cowboys and 16 points against the Rams. While the front office and coaching changes are a good start, only significant roster changes on offense will bring championship smiles back to DC.