Washington Redskins: 9 Things to Fix in the Second Half of the Season
The Washington Redskins entered their bye week with a 3-1 record, and their health intact. Coming out of the bye week, they've lost two straight and seen three starters put on IR, with two more knocked out for several weeks.
Entering Week 8, the Redskins have 10 games remaining in the season and plenty of room for improvement across the board.
Regardless of injuries, Washington needs to make serious adjustments to their approach to each game. Though the season is far from over, many fans and experts are already falling back on their preseason predictions of a top 10 pick for the Redskins.
Here are some of the things that need to be fixed in the second half of the season:
Offensive Play Calling
Kyle Shanahan has faltered as an offensive coordinator with the Washington Redskins. Without Andre Johnson to spread the field and to open up the defense, he is at a loss for action. He can't call a game, and abandons the run all too easily, regardless of the score.
Mike Shanahan needs to either make the offense more of a joint effort or take his son off the headset.
Kyle has made his name by being a studious coordinator in his career, but has failed to translate that into success outside of Houston. His offense shows a lack of variety in plays and a lack of vision regarding the players involved.
The Redskins offense ranks in the top half of the NFL in terms of yardage, but the lack of big plays, scoring and consistency has rendered that yardage a moot point.
Statistical evidence shows that the Redskins have only seven dropped passes on the season, which is among the fewest in the NFL. In reviewing the players' recent performances, though, its apparent that their drops have come in crucial situations in winnable games.
Redskins receivers have seen potential first downs slip through their fingers, which speaks to their recent lack of focus since the bye week.
Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Fred Davis, and even Santana Moss have let passes slip from their grasp. Their mistakes have put the Redskins in 3rd-and-long situations or derailed drives entirely. With the sure-handed Moss out with a broken hand, it will fall on the younger receivers to grab those passes.
Terrence Austin displayed perfect form on his first reception of the season against the Eagles, and should see more opportunities in the wake of Moss' injury.
Though Tim Hightower went down for the season with an ACL tear, the Redskins are not devoid of talent at the running back position. The issue for the ground game has been the dedication from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
It shouldn't matter that the offense has had to play from behind in the last two games, the Redskins are successful when they lean on their ground game.
The Redskins won time of possession in the first few weeks of the season because they ran the ball. In their wins this season, the Redskins have run the ball 15 or more times with one running back. With the exception of the loss to the Carolina Panthers, the game in which Hightower went down partway through, the Redskins have failed to give a single running back 15 carries.
Ryan Torain saw just 10 carries against the Eagles, despite the passing game producing four interceptions and little else for three quarters.
Rex Grossman spent the first five games of the season giving the ball away to opposing defenses. The Redskins stout defense has failed to force turnovers, despite being tied for the NFL lead in sacks.
If the Redskins continue to give the ball up on offense, and fail to create turnovers on defense, their season will continue to spiral out of control.
Ryan Kerrigan hasn't gotten his hands on the ball since the bye week, and that is troublesome. The secondary is playing soft, which has left little threat of an interception, and created more first downs for opposing offenses. The emphasis on pressure has taken precedence over creating turnovers, and the Redskins have fallen to minus-6 in the turnover category.
Plain and simple, the offense needs to hold on to the ball and the defense needs to get their hands on it.
Brandon Banks has returned 17 punts this season, which is tied for the fourth most by any one player in the NFL. Though he averages nearly three returns per game, he only averages 8.5 yards per game—the rest of the top 10 returners average 10 yards per return.
The Redskins can't win the field position battle if their offense starts at such a detriment after a defensive stand.
Banks has displayed explosive speed in his short career, but has failed to display anything resembling vision. He runs full speed into oncoming tacklers instead of using controlled bursts to weave through crowds. With the offense as feeble as it has been, Banks needs to step up or step aside.
If the Redskins continue to ignore Terrence Austin on offense, they should strongly consider putting him in to return punts instead.
After the Week 3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins secondary has been playing especially soft in their coverage. A team that thrives on pressure should not give opposing receivers room to make catches on hurried throws, yet the Redskins have given up a lot of completions for that very reason.
Providing receivers with unnecessary cushion is not the way to shut an offense down.
It was apparent in the loss to Carolina that the absence of O.J. Atogwe, the team's only true free safety, created problems in coverage. Safety help was late in rotating to Steve Smith on the oh-so-perfect throw Cam Newton laid over his shoulder. It made Josh Wilson look bad and, even worse, showed a glaring weakness in the secondary.
LaRon Landry's talents are wasted in coverage, but Reed Doughty is not fast enough to provide the necessary help. The Redskins need to consider protecting Atogwe during the practice week.
One problem with the Redskins play calling being so predictable is a lack of variety in their offensive packages. Week in and week out you see the same four skill players in the same single back formation running left or right off tackle.
With the injuries to veterans like Chris Cooley and Santana Moss, Washington's offense will have to integrate new players into their scheme and utilize them accordingly.
The Redskins can still run their two tight end sets with Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen. Split Davis out with Terrence Austin, and have Anthony Armstrong and Jabar Gaffney on the outside. It creates mismatches and opens up the playbook, especially if they play a quick passing game to start and then take their shots down the field.
Why not run an empty backfield set, given the lack of faith in the ground game?
Still, Ryan Torain and Roy Helu are capable receivers out of the backfield, and should be factored into the packages accordingly.
The Redskins made the right move in benching Rex Grossman and handing the offense over to John Beck. In his first start, Beck performed well, throwing for one touchdown and rushing for another, but he still gave up two turnovers.
For the Redskins to win, they need to get the most out of their limited options at quarterback.
Beck isn't a franchise quarterback, which means the coaches will need to adjust the offense to get the most out of his abilities. The use of play action was a good idea against Carolina, but became predictable in the absence of a ground game.
If there is one thing the coaches can do to help Beck, it would be allowing him to take some shots down the field instead of settling for intermediate and short throws.
Red Zone Offense
It could be considered an extension of the turnover discussion, but the Redskins have done next to nothing in the red zone this season.
What is particularly interesting is that Graham Gano has yet to attempt a field goal inside the 20, which means the offense has turned the ball over inside the 20 or stalled upon reaching the red zone.
The reasons behind these stalls don't matter—the Redskins simply need to get into the habit of scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
The Redskins have scored 11 touchdowns on offense this season, four rushing and seven receiving. To make matters worse, half of their rushing touchdowns were by John Beck and came in the last two weeks alone. The Redskins have 12 team touchdowns, which puts them among the likes of the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs at the bottom of the NFL.