October 16, 2014 in Redskins Personnel
1. Run the football at least 25 times a game:
-Honestly I'd love to see this number be more like 35 or 40, but I'll take baby steps here with at least getting up to 25 rushing attempts. The Redskins are a better running team than a passing team, and that is even with the influx of receiver talent this year. The Redskins theoretically haven't invested heavily in the offensive line for the reason that in a zone scheme it's more about type of lineman and working together than getting 3-4 really good OL out there (I'd still love to try that approach). These linemen are all better at run blocking than pass blocking, and that even includes the Redskins one elite talent Trent Williams. Yet overall the Redskins have 239 dropbacks (pass attempts + sacks) and 144 rushing attempts. That means the Redskins are running the ball only 38% of the time which is pretty low.
Now part of the problem can be attributed to a lack of success in the ground game or even the score, but really that is a bit of a cop out. In the four games this season where the Redskins had less than 25 carries a game (all four ended up in losses), the Redskins weren't really "out of the game" in any of them until at least mid-way through the 3rd quarter. Even among those only the Giants game really was ever out of hand. It is true that with the exception of the Texans game, the rushing attack hasn't been too effective in the losses, but some of that is on the coaching for the play calls and the abandonment of the run game. Calling running plays without imagination, or in heavy packages are going to tip off the defense when a run is coming so they can stack the box. The Redskins have to do a better job of mixing up their play calls and running out of formations and situations that they typically don't run from. It will lead to some plays and drives that get stalled, but that is happening as it is so why not try it to see if it can help break the running game out of it's rut. Asking any quarterback in this offense, much less your back-up to throw the ball 30 times a game, is a recipe for disaster, so it is time to put the ground attack to work.
2. Live and die by the Blitz:
-I know the Redskins envisioned that they could get a lot of pressure with 4 man fronts this year with some combination of Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Jason Hatcher, Barry Cofield, Chris Baker and Trent Murphy rushing the passer, but it's just not happening on a consistent enough level to keep sticking with it. Whether it is a result of the players under-performing, injuries mounting or just coaches not getting their guys free (most likely it is a combination of everything), the end result is opposing teams have far too clean of a pocket in which to throw from and are picking apart the Redskins weak secondary. It doesn't matter if there are 7 or 8 guys in coverage, there will be a breakdown which opposing QB's can exploit. The Redskins have to ramp up the pressure in the hopes of getting more big plays on defense, and the best way to do that is more blitzing and having 5-6 guys attacking on every play.
Yes there can be a downside there as some teams will be able to pick up the blitz and it can leave you exposed on the backend, but the backend is getting exposed as it is so why not risk it for the chance of more big plays on defense? The frustrating thing is the Redskins have already seen the positive impact of blitzing as when they have done it this year they've gotten some big sacks or some pressures that led to bad throws.
I know situationally it can be risky to blitz on 3rd and short or a 2nd and 5 type of play, but at this point the Redskins need to take these risks. Playing it safe just isn't working right now.
3. Keep Will Compton in at ILB:
-Last week Will Compton took over for Perry Riley on defense as Riley was dealing with a knee injury. Riley had been victimized all season, and has been a big liability on defense for the Redskins. Compton showed some improvement (though the same size is definitely limited at this point), and it would be good to see more out off him this year. The Redskins need to figure out if Compton can be more than just a stop gap option for this year, or if his future is to be just a back-up/special teamer. I know that there will be some loyalty to Riley, but to go back to him fulltime when he's healthy just doesn't make much sense.
4. Give Moses, LeRibeus, and Long a shot:
-Speaking about figuring out what the Redskins have for next year, it's time to see what the back-up offensive linemen can do. Now Tom Compton could also be considered, but nothing in his profile or preseason work has really suggested he's anything more than a back-up. He's gotten about 50 snaps this year, and he's struggled in that time, giving up some really bad pressures. From a physical standpoint and a potential standpoint he's not on the same level as the other younger back-ups. Josh LeRibeus has actually played over 90 snaps this year, getting extensive work in both the Eagles and Giants games and it hasn't been too pretty so far, he still deserves a more expanded opportunity to see if there is any future there. Moses and Long have 10 snaps between them, and are the most inexperienced of the bunch, but also have the best upside.
Of the young offensive linemen, Moses is the one who should be given the largest opportunity to shine. Not only does Moses have the best size and potential mix of the three offensive linemen in question, he also would fill in at the Redskins weakest offensive line position. That's not to suggest that Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, or Chris Chester should be buying new Hawaiian shirts or are a part of the future for the Redskins, but they bring good with the bad. There is a real chance that the growing pains suffered by LeRibeus or Long will weaken the performance of the line. Moses on the other hand would be replacing Tyler Polumbus, who has been down right awful this year. He's been a liability pretty much every week and it has led to a number of big negative plays for the Redskins. Moses will surely have rookie mistakes and will probably cost the Redskins on some plays, but at this point he would almost have to be actively trying to have a worse performance than Polumbus. Moses has the best chance of being part of the future of the Redskins line, so he deserves to have the largest opportunity to see if he can reach his potential.
Now I realize that a number of people may harp on Moses' poor performance against Seattle (in all of 5 plays), as he gave up a big QB hit that simply shouldn't have happened. While that was an ugly play, that is an unfair play to judge Moses' potential on. He got beat because he either didn't know the snap count or believed that he wasn't responsible for the defensive end. Either way he messed up, but that is what happens when you throw a rookie into a game without him practicing with the starters all week. That wasn't a play that happened because Moses lacked talent. Each week Bashaud Breeland makes multiple rookie mistakes that costs the defense, but most Redskins fans understand that he's a 4th round rookie being thrown into a bad situation and those mistakes are going to happen. The same is true for Moses, and he should be held to a similar standard.
5. Limit DeSean Jackson's presence on running plays or on screen plays to his side:
-There is no doubt that DeSean Jackson is an explosive playmaker, who has made some HUGE plays for the Redskins offensively this season. If not for Jackson's big plays the Redskins probably wouldn't have been as close in some of their losses. At the same time though, it's also pretty apparent that DeSean Jackson hurts this team when he's not getting the ball in his hands. It's tough to obviously assess a player's mindset, but from a close observer standpoint, Jackson just isn't caring enough on a per snap basis. At times he's running lazy routes or has had some drops, which shows a lack of concentration, but what's most troubling is his inability to make any sort of effort blocking either in the run, the screen game, or even down field when another guy catches the ball.
Albert Haynesworth gave more of an effort on that play where he fell down and took a nap versus the Eagles in the Monday Night Massacre in 2010, than Jackson does on a typical run or screen play. Yes that play from Hayensworth was awful in the end, but he was the first guy off the ball on the snap and pushed his guy back 3 or 4 yards before he fell and took the rest of the play off. At least he tried (and had success) initially before he cared more about himself than the success of the play. Jackson doesn't even seem to try on these blocks. That is pretty troubling and has to at some point spill over into the lockerroom.
Yes Jackson is a smaller receiver and shouldn't be known for his blocking ability, but at least try and make an effort. There are a number of small receivers who are successful blockers (Santana Moss being one of them), and do their best to impede their guy from making the play. Jackson on the other hand is just flat out giving up, which is causing some real negative plays for the Redskins.
It's at the point now where the Redskins have to start limiting when and where Jackson can be on the field. If the Redskins are running a screen pass and the ball isn't going to Jackson, he either needs to be on the other side of the field or better yet on the sideline. The same is true on rushing plays. If it's a running play to either side, Jackson can't be asked to be involved in the play or there's a chance he ends up costing the Redskins. Unfortunately just by having to scheme around Jackson it costs the Redskins because it begins to telegraph things to the opposing defense and makes their job far easier.