The Redskins sit at 1-3, but in the NFC East this year, they are well in the hunt with the weakness of the division. To do so though the Redskins are going to have to get some things fixed as they are going to have a tough road to make the playoffs otherwise. Here are my top 5 things that need fixing during the bye week:
-The Redskins tackling through the first quarter of the season has been awful to say the least. It’s sad to say but the Redskins need to use this extra time to get back to basics. They need to break down every missed tackle and poor tackle with each defender to show them what they are doing wrong and also work on the defense in taking better pursuit angles so they can be in proper position to make sure tackles more often. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but they have to do something to get these guys to tackle properly.
I also think it is time that playing time is tied to performance. I know veteran players are typically protected, but the Redskins need to hold everyone accountable, and if they aren’t doing the job they shouldn’t be playing. The team has already benched Bacarri Rambo, perhaps it is time to cut playing time for some other major offenders.
-The Offense seems so stale right now, and defenses aren’t having any issues defending it. The play calling seems pretty vanilla and predictable and it is leading to some negative plays. Part of it may be on Robert Griffin‘s injury, but a lot of it seems to be that defenses have figured out some counters for the pistol and read option. We are seeing teams around the league not have as much success with the concepts as they did a year ago (though many teams are still faring better than the Redskins). During this break the Redskins coaches need to review what every RO team is doing and why are some things having success and others no longer that effective. From there they need to come up with a better game plan for the rest of the season that will hopefully get this offense started again. I think one thing the Redskins should look at is running some different personnel packages out of different formations in an attempt to confuse the defense.
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-The word is out and the way to attack the Redskins passing game is to blitz. Robert Griffin III doesn’t have the elite elusiveness that he did a year ago and is struggling far more when he’s under pressure. What’s even worse is the Redskins haven’t seemed to figure out how to combat the various blitzes they are seeing. Too often we are seeing a free rusher, pressuring Griffin or a blocker reacting late and forcing Griffin to move. The Redskins have to come up with better schemes to recognize and block these various blitzes we are seeing. Also, there needs to be a recognition of Kyle Shanahan and Robert Griffin III that when they see blitz they need to have a hot read to dump the ball to. Even if that route is not in the play’s initial design, Griffin should be allowed to audible a receiver to give him that option.
-The Redskins safety play is simply awful so far. It was so bad that in week 3 the Redskins basically opted to play one safety. Brandon Meriweather is the Redskins top safety, but that is really a relative term. He’s missed plenty of tackles and coverage assignments so far in 2 and a half weeks, and is being forced to play both free and strong safety. Rookie Bacarri Rambo was hyped during the offseason and camp, but he’s quickly found himself on the bench. He struggled in preseason and the first two weeks and hasn’t seen a defensive play either of the last two weeks. Reed Doughty has gotten some strong safety playing time, but he’s also been passed over quite a bit or platooned with CB E.J. Biggers. Biggers hasn’t played safety since high school yet he appears to be a better option than what else the Redskins have as he continues to see safety snaps. Jordan Pugh platooned with Reed Doughty last year, but he’s barely seen the field this year despite all the other woes.
This position being such a mess is simply unacceptable. The Redskins are also keeping a 5th safety on the roster, Jose Gumbs, who they haven’t even activated despite injuries and ineffectiveness. The Redskins need to figure out a safety game plan for the rest of the season, and hopefully it is one that doesn’t involve trotting out a cornerback for 50% of the snaps. I think the Redskins are likely going to need to go find a safety off some other team’s practice squad or among the many veterans currently on the market. They have to be better than what we’ve seen so far (it would be really hard to be worse), and even if they aren’t for some reason at least the Redskins would be trying to get better.
-The mistakes in the return game are getting a little old for the Redskins and if they continue down this path, they will see some major miscues. Right now it looks like Josh Morgan will be handling kick-off return duties while Chris Thompson handles punts. Morgan isn’t a dynamic returner, but wouldn’t be too bad in the role if he just would know when to take the ball out of the end zone and when not to. In the Lions game he cost the Redskins crucial field position and it hurt them. Thompson it looks has lost his kick-off return duties (where he had the same issue as Morgan), and continues to make poor decisions on fielding punts. The Redskins have lost yardage due to the decisions by both returners, and Thompson has caught the ball in situations that are ripe for fumbles. The Redskins need to fix this during these next two weeks as they simply can’t afford to give up field position if they want to win.
Also, it is time that Thompson starts being inactive on game days. He doesn’t play other special teams, and not he isn’t even returning kicks. I can’t imagine there is a team in the league that keeps a guy who is solely there for punt returns active. Until Thompson can show he can contribute on offense or be a premier return man, having him active is a waste of a roster spot. We saw this past week how quickly the Redskins can need their third running back, yet had Helu gone down or needed a break after Morris left with an injury, was Thompson even an option? Evan Royster should be active, and he can contribute on multiple special teams units as well as serving as a 3rd string back.