Evaluating talent is a continuous process for NFL coaches. Coaches face scenarios where they have to examine if a player can perform better as the season progresses to help strengthen a team’s playoff push, or if a player can help provide depth in case a starter goes down.
Unfortunately, the Washington Redskins have experienced midseason evaluations for the past few years. Not to better the burgundy and gold for the second half of the season, but for the following year, because their season is over—much like this season’s campaign.
The Redskins will not make the playoffs this season, not only due to their struggles, but also because there are much better teams in the NFC that are fighting for the fifth- and sixth-seed wild-cards spots: the Chicago Bears (6-3), Atlanta Falcons (5-4), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5), Dallas Cowboys (5-4) and Detroit Lions (6-3).
The Redskins are fighters. However, if a fighter is not successful in a confrontation—better yet, if they cannot execute—the fighter is wasting their time—similar to the Redskins.
There’s no secret on how weak the Redskins’ 3-1 record was. The Redskins, rightfully, took advantage of a banged-up New York Giants (6-3) squad in Week 1. In Week 2, the Redskins escaped an experimental Arizona Cardinals’ team that was developing chemistry between quarterback Kevin Kolb and All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. A limited Dallas Cowboys team edged out the Redskins on the road in Week 3, and after a short week, Washington responded with a 17-10 victory over a struggling St. Louis Rams (2-7) squad.
After their bye in Week 5, the next four contests would test how decent the Redskins really were, as they had to face explosive offenses and athletic defenses.
The Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) were desperately in need of a win, and the Redskins wanted to come out of the bye to get a solid win to jump-start their season after some deserved rest in Week 5.
The Redskins proved that they were no match for the Eagles in the first half of the contest, as quarterback Michael Vick picked Washington’s defense apart and running back LeSean McCoy ran all around the field. Despite the great defensive adjustments the Redskins made in the second half, their offense could not take advantage of their opportunities.
Moreover, the most noticeable incident of their contest against the Eagles was the benching of Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman, as he threw four interceptions and backup quarterback John Beck replaced him.
A trip to Charlotte, North Carolina was the team’s next destination as the Redskins journeyed to battle against the Carolina Panthers (2-7) and prized rookie quarterback Cam Newton in Week 7. Both teams’ defenses were outstanding, as they pitched a no-touchdown first half. But all good things end, and the once-contained Newton was unleashed as the Panthers defeated the Redskins 33-20. In Beck’s first start of the season and first start since 2007, he played pretty well despite the loss, passing for 279 yards.
In the Redskins next two games against the Buffalo Bills (5-4) and the San Francisco 49ers (8-1), Washington was ineffective offensively, while the defense kept giving the team a fighting chance.
Question: Since the benching of Grossman, is Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan too prideful in his play-calling in terms of trying to make Beck and the offense into something they are not?
With a battered offensive line that lost guard Kory Lichtensteiger, who sustained a season-ending knee injury, and missing veteran wide receiver Santana Moss for five to seven weeks due to a hand injury, the Redskins have to be balanced in their attack, while allowing their running game to take the lead.
Although running back Tim Hightower went down for the season due to a knee injury, the Redskins are still loaded with ball carriers in Ryan Torain, rookie Roy Helu and newly acquired Tashard Choice. The Redskins’ running game would help take some pressure off Beck.
Shanahan talks of being a balanced offense, but his in-game strategy displays the total opposite.
“We want to be a balanced team,” said Shanahan on November 10 at Redskins Park. “We try to come out and we want to run the ball and throw the ball. We want to set up some things and we want to be aggressive in the pass game. We also don’t want to put all the pressure on the quarterback. We want to be able to run the ball.
“In the second half in these last few weeks, I believe in the last three games, we’ve been down two scores in the third quarter when we’ve gotten the ball,” he continued. “And that does skew the stats a little bit. You start throwing it more. We’ll obviously get him better stats throwing the ball. If you can be balanced throughout the game, it can be spread around a little bit more, but it hasn’t been that way.”
In the first halves of their last four games, the Redskins have been competitive defensively. In the second halves, Washington has been in the game, oftentimes heading into the fourth quarter. The Redskins have not been far behind in those four contests, and they had time to establish their running game, but instead abandoned it.
Beck has made several mistakes. However, Beck has been forced to put the game on his shoulders by throwing the ball with poor protection, and his receivers have either dropped passes or failed to come back to the ball to help their signal caller.
After Grossman’s benching, the Redskins threw the ball 37 times and ran only 20 times against the Panthers. Against the Bills, they threw the ball 33 times and ran only 10 times. And against the 49ers, the Redskins passed the ball 47 times and ran the ball only 14 times. They averaged a 23.4 more passes than runs in those games.
Helu set a running-back record with 14 receptions against the 49ers. If the coaching staff does not have confidence in their running game, they could use designed short passes with blockers so the ball carriers can get out in space to make things happen. Dumping passes out to avoid pressure is not consistently effective.
“You run your plays and you figure out how you’re going to stop it,” said Shanahan. “Sometimes they stop it because their guy beats your guy. Sometimes they stop it schematically. You want to put your players in the best position to succeed, [to] find the matchups and you’ve got to count on your guy to beat that player in front of him. Usually, they’ll do that when you put them in the right situation. Then, defenses adjust to stop that schematically.
“When they do adjust to stop a specific thing schematically, they’ve opened up a hole for something else,” he continued. “Those are things you can play off and I thought we did a better job earlier in the year. I think that’s kind of why our numbers, as far as running the ball, have been skewed too.
“Whenever you can get first downs and get those longer drives, there’s a little more to it, but, for obvious reasons, it’s been tougher the last few weeks.”
In the Redskins’ ninth game of the season, they faced the Miami Dolphins (2-7), and Grossman was renamed the starter. The Redskins were a bit more balanced. Unfortunately, the team experienced the same result, extending their losing streak to five after falling to the Dolphins, 20-9.
The Redskins may have some light in the tunnel when they face the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12. But that is not a given because the sea-chickens are tough to beat at home—just ask the Baltimore Ravens.
Consequently, the Redskins will host a hot Cowboys (5-4) team in Week 11 and a rejuvenated New York Jets (5-4) team in Week 13.
If the Redskins’ offense can sustain long drives in the second half, in order for the defense to gather itself, Washington could pull out some victories.
At best, the Redskins will go 1-2 in their next three outings, looking to improve game by game—for next season.
Article via Bleacher Report