Washington Redskins: 5 Players Who Need to Step Up in Week 12
I understand that point of view. The franchise is clearly in a rebuilding mode, and there is little distinction between finishing 3-13 or 6-10.
During every NFL season, there is at least one team that comes out of nowhere to make the playoffs--the San Francisco 49ers are that team this year--and drafting quality young players is the Redskins best hope for becoming that team next season.
The worse the team finishes this year, the better the draft position they will receive and the greater the chance that they will land an All-Pro caliber player.
This approach has a lot of merit, but as Herm Edwards told us some years ago, "You play to win the game." The bottom line is the Redskins are not going to lose-out on purpose for several reasons.
Mike Shanahan wants to prove that he is not a washed up head coach who is utterly lost without John Elway.
Kyle Shanahan wants to prove he deserves to be the team's offensive coordinator.
Rex Grossman probably still believes he can prove he is a legitimate starting quarterback.
There are plenty of other players on the roster who are playing for their jobs, trying to show the coaching staff they deserve to be retained.
Say what you will about the Redskins, but the team has too many players--London Fletcher comes to mind--that have too much character to just roll over during the remaining six games.
If Shanahan is smart, he will use the last third of the season to evaluate the talent on his roster.
That process begins on Sunday when the Redskins visit the Seattle Seahawks, another franchise stuck in rebuilding mode.
Here are five Redskins that need to step up against Seattle.
Much has been made of the recent struggles of the Redskins in third down defense, and those struggles can be partially attributed to Jim Haslett's penchant for blitzing.
Haslett's play-calling has simply become too predictable, and as a result, he often hangs his struggling secondary out to dry.
All-out blitzes can work wonders in third-and-long situations if a defense has all-pro caliber cornerbacks who can shut down receivers without help from safeties or linebackers.
Unfortunately, the Redskins' secondary is not the team's strongest asset, and Haslett's blitzes force them to try and play above their talent level.
Against the Cowboys, Tony Romo and co. seemed to know exactly when Haslett planned to blitz and that helped the Cowboys convert 8-17 third downs. Considering the Redskins were without strong safety LaRon Landry, Haslett's decision to blitz constantly was even more questionable.
On Sunday, Haslett can better serve the Redskins by calling more coverage plays on third down and letting Ryan Kerrigan, Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo apply pressure to the opposing team's quarterback.
After the loss to the Cowboys, Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall blamed himself and urged the team to cut him. Hall was particularly miffed by the fact that he slipped in overtime while covering Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant. That allowed Bryant to convert the third-and-15 which set-up the game winning field goal.
On that particular play in overtime, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett opted to blitz, putting added pressure on Hall and the other members of the Redskins secondary. As I've already stated, I think Haslett has gotten a bit blitz-happy and is not doing his defense any favors by predictably dialing up blitzes on third-and-long situations.
That being said, Hall has only one interception on the year. That's a far cry from the six he had last year.
If Hall can step-up and start generating more turnovers, the Redskins will have a much better chance to win on a consistent basis.
Against the Cowboys, Grossman showed why the Redskins are better off with him at quarterback than with John Beck.
Grossman looked confident, consistently found receivers down the field and put together three touchdown drives, which in Washington rates as an offensive explosion.
But Rex is still Rex. The fact that he played well last week does not negate the chance that he will slide back into his bad habits and put forth a multi-turnover effort in Seattle.
Quarterback is the most important position on the football field. When Grossman plays well, the Redskins can hang with anyone. When he is careless with the ball, the team is an utter train wreck.
Graham Gano has had an up and down season.
Early in the year he had several field goals blocked, but he bounced back in week nine when he set a new team record for longest field goal made.
On the season, Gano has hit three field goals from over 50 yards, an impressive feat for any kicker.
Unfortunately, he saved some his most inaccurate kicks for an inopportune moment. He missed from 49 yards and 52 yards against the Cowboys. Either kick would have given Washington a victory.
The game against the Seahawks should be close, so the Redskins will need Gano to bring his accuracy on the flight to Seattle.
Mike Shanahan hurt his already tarnished reputation when he iced Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey in overtime and in the process saved the Cowboys from a 15 yard penalty that would have forced Bailey to kick from 54 yards instead of 39.
As Dallas was lining up for the field goal attempt, the play clock was winding down. Tony Romo, who for some ill-advised reason is serving as the team's placeholder, saw the dwindling play clock and attempted to pull a Chris Webber, not realizing the team was out of timeouts.
But Shanahan beat him to the punch, calling a timeout to ice Bailey and nullifying Romo's attempted time out call in the process.
I've never seen any credible evidence that shows icing kickers decreases accuracy, and while I don't believe in blind reliance on advanced statistics, this is one instance where coaches need to pay attention to the probabilities.
Shanahan should have been more aware in that situation. Even if he didn't know the Cowboys were out of timeouts, he should have seen the play clock expiring and stopped himself from calling timeout. It was a move that reeks of amateurism and gives the ever growing contingent of anti-Shanahan Redskins fans another reason to question his abilities as a head coach.
In Seattle, Shanahan needs to do a better job at managing the game. I expect the contest to be a close one, so it is imperative that the Redskins coaching staff wisely use their timeouts and challenges.