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How the Redskins 2014 Opponents Helped themselves in the Draft: Part 2

May 18, 2014 in NFL, Redskins Personnel

Part 1: Weeks 1-7

Week 8: Dallas Cowboys

Notable additions: G/T Zack Martin, DE Demarcus Lawrence

Most of the Cowboys picks ended up as more of depth options (which Dallas desperately needed), but they did grab two guys who can make an impact this year. Though Dallas had more pressing defensive needs, adding a top offensive lineman like Zack Martin is a really good pick for them. Dallas has the skill positions pretty well set, but they have had issues getting the most out of them given just how bad their offensive line has been. That is why the Cowboys have spent 3 of their past 4 first round picks on the offensive line. What was one of the worst offensive lines in the league just 2 years ago, could now be one of the better units in the league if Martin can play up to his potential. It sounds like he'll start off inside at guard and will likely be looked at as an option to neutralize guys like Jason Hatcher and Barry Cofield for the Redskins. Hatcher and Cofield may still be able to get the better of the match-up, but with Martin's potential, the Cowboys now have a chance to win inside. Dallas's other pick that could make an impact year one is the guy Dallas traded up with the Redskins to select, defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence is a bit more of a project pick and may only be used as a situational rusher as a rookie (will probably be a liability in the run game), but he offers a lot of good tools coming off the edge. Long term he projects as a right side rusher, but don't be surprised if on passing downs the Cowboys shift him to the left side so he doesn't have to face off with Trent Williams. Tyler Polumbus and possibly Morgan Moses will be tested by Lawrence. These aren't the biggest impact players in the draft, but Dallas did get two pretty good talents that the Redskins will need to counter.

Week 9: Minnesota Vikings

Notable additions: OLB Anthony Barr, QB Teddy Bridgewater, DE Scott Crichton, RB Jerick McKinnon, CB Antone Exum

The Vikings used their top 10 pick to bring in OLB Anthony Barr from UCLA. Barr has been one of the top pass rushers in college football these past two seasons and is a terror off the edge. He's still pretty raw at the position, and the Vikings will use him in a 4-3 set as opposed to the 3-4 set he played at UCLA. Ideally he'll be used in a similar way to Von Miller in Denver, though given how raw he is, he might not be an everydown player as a rookie. The one thing he will bring to the table is that edge rushing ability. With the Vikings already having a strong front 4 Barr could have a lot of freedom to work with and could be a very good pass rusher early on. Minnesota grabbed defensive end Scott Crichton in the 3rd round adding another pass rusher to the mix. Though he won't start, don't be surprised if he sees some decent playing time this year. Mike Zimmer loves to rotate his defensive linemen to keep them fresh, and Crichton helps ensures that when he does that he can still bring pressure on the quarterback. Corner Antone Exum was probably a top 50 corner two years ago, but an ACL injury after the 2012 had him slide to the 6th round. If he bounces back this year he could push for nickel duties. On offense the Vikings grabbed QB Teddy Bridgewater in the first round, though they may let him sit for a year. At the mid-way point in the season, there is a chance Bridgewater's starting, which would probably be a good thing for the Redskins, but that is up in the air. A really interesting under the radar pick for the Vikings is RB Jerick McKinnon, he was an option QB in college, but he's an incredible athlete and a natural runner, he could give the Vikings a nice weapon to spell Adrian Peterson with and keep that running game flowing.  The biggest threat to the Redskins overall is Barr and Crichton, their ability to get after the quarterback, in addition to the rest of this defense is going to give the Redskins problems.

Week 10: Bye

Week 11: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Notable additions: WR Mike Evans, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, RB Charles Sims

Now rookie wide receivers don't typically make much of an impact, but Mike Evans could have a solid year given the situation he's in. Top wide receiver Vincent Jackson is going to draw the top coverage and likely his fair share of double teams as well. Veteran QB Josh McCown is coming off a great year when he replaced Jay Cutler and took advantage of the Bears' big physical receivers. He should do a nice job putting the ball where Evans can use his size and leaping ability to make play. The real beneficiary here though could be 3rd rounder TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. With much of the defensive focus on Jackson and Evans at WR and RB Doug Martin coming out of the backfield, Seferian-Jenkins will likely only have to worry about single coverage versus a linebacker. That's a huge mismatch versus any of the Redskins linebackers and one that Tampa could take full advantage of. The final guy who could make an impact is runningback Charles Sims. Doug Martin is the Bucs number one back, but Sims could help spell him and has really good receiving ability and could be a weapon out of the backfield.

Week 12: San Francisco 49ers

Notable additions: S Jimmie Ward, RB Carlos Hyde, C Marcus Martin, ILB Chris Borland, WR Bruce Ellington, CB/S Dontae Johnson, OLB Aaron Lynch

The 49ers had a great draft, but what will be interesting is to see how much early impact they end up needing from these guys. It could be that 5 or 6 of these guys see the field a bit as rookies, or it could end up just being 1 or 2. The two players most likely to make an impact are their top two picks. Jimmie Ward is a very talented safety and he should pair with 2013 first rounder Eric Reid to form one of the better safety tandems in the league. Ward is versatile and can play centerfield, come down cover the slot, or help in run support. He definitely improves this defense. Running back Carlos Hyde, probably won't start, but he should be getting his fair share of caries this season. Where he could really help the 49ers is in short yardage situations where he's extremely tough to bring down before he picks up that 1st or TD. Others that could make an impact: Marcus Martin would be the 49ers starting center if Daniel Kilgore struggles as the starter. Chris Borland could be a starter if Navarro Bowman struggles coming back from his injury (though likely he's back by this point). Ellington probably won't play much receiver, but he could be the 49ers primary return man. Johnson and Lynch could be rotational players at their positions as well. Likely the Redskins will only need to worry about Ward and Hyde when they play, but what a strong deep draft like this means is that  the 49ers can cover possible injuries at a number of positions that are bound to happen during the course of the season.

Week 13: Indianapolis Colts

Notable additions: G Jack Mewhort, WR Donte Moncrief

The Colts got perhaps the least amount of impact from this draft, due to missing multiple picks, including their first rounder. The two guys who could make an impact this year G Jack Mewhort and WR Donte Moncrief, both don't figure to start this year so neither player may be a guy the Redskins need to worry about. Mewhort could possibly push for a starting job, but he figures to be behind 2013 free agent addition Donald Thomas and 2013 3rd round Hugh Thornton who had a good year down the stretch for the Colts. What he does is offer nice insurance for Indianapolis. Last year Thomas was injured for most of the season, and the Colts offensive line depth was tested. Mewhort could also back-up the tackle positions as well, given that is what he played his final two years in college. Moncrief will be no better than a 4th WR on the Colts (and even that is not a lock), but with Reggie Wayne coming off a major injury and Hakeem Nicks always banged up, he could be called upon at some point this season.

Week 14: St. Louis Rams

Notable additions: G/T Greg Robinson, DT Aaron Donald, CB/S LaMarcus Joyner, RB Tre Mason, DE Michael Sam

The Rams had a tremendous draft class and brought in a number of players who can make an early impact. The number two overall pick, Greg Robinson, gives the Rams all sorts of options this year. If Jake Long struggles to come back from his knee injury, Robinson could play LT, he could start out at RT, or given the success of Joe Barksdale down the stretch last year, Robinson could kick inside to guard, giving the Rams a ridiculously talented offensive line. Wherever he ends up he could be neutralizing a top defensive player for the Redskins, particularly later in the year when he's gotten a chance to get his feet wet. The Rams other 1st rounder could make even a bigger impact year one. Aaron Donald was the best defensive player in college football last year, and is an incredible penetrator, who despite being undersized commands a double team. The problem is how can a team double-team Donald when they have to worry about edge rushers Robert Quinn and Chris Long, not to mention former 1st round pick Micheal Brockers on the inside. Donald will get a lot of favorable match-ups and will likely be 1-on-1 versus the Redskins guards, which is a major advantage for Donald. Defensive back LaMarcus Joyner figures to play a hybrid slot corner/safety role, and he could be a very good playmaker back there for the Rams. He was instrumental in the Seminoles National Championship victory and he should fit into this defense nicely. Running back Tre Mason should team up with Zac Stacy to form a nice 1-2 punch at running back for the Rams. Now 7th rounders don't typically make an impact, but don't be surprised if Michael Sam isn't your typical 7th rounder. He's undersized and a limited athlete, but he's one of those smart high motor guys, who find a way to get after the quarterback. The Rams don't have great pass rushing depth behind their starting ends, so if Sam works at it, he could carve out a niche for himself in a back-up role. While there are a lot of questions if Sam can succeed without ideal athletic ability, he had a great year in the SEC and succeeded at the Senior Bowl in getting after the QB. The Redskins are really going to have a tough time countering this group of talented draft picks and they could all be a thorn in the Redskins side when they play late in the year.

Week 15: New York Giants- See Part 1

Week 16: Philadelphia Eagles- See Part 1

Week 17: Dallas Cowboys- See above

Bubble Screens Essential To Redskins Running Game

June 28, 2013 in NFL, Washington Redskins

The foundation to the Redskins offense is laid by the run game. If the Redskins can run the ball, they can built their play-action, option and passing game off of it and be extremely hard to stop. But this is no secret, everyone knows that with Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, the Redskins want to run the ball and use up as much time on the clock as possible. Defenses typically respond to the run-heavy offense by bringing down a safety to join as the eighth man in the box. With so many defenders in the box, it can be hard to run the ball between the tackles. That's where the screen game comes in.

The Redskins have screen pass options built in to almost every run play that has two receivers lined up on the same side of the field. When a defense plays a little too heavy against the run, Griffin can pull the ball and throw the quick screen. We saw plenty of examples of that this season. In fact, against the Saints in week one, most of the opening drive was made up of bubble screens.

Here the Saints don't actually have an eighth man in the box, but aren't respecting the threat of the pass. The Will (weakside) backer isn't lined up over Pierre Garcon in the slot, instead edging inside to help support the run. Griffin reads this pre-snap and fakes the hand off to Morris before throwing the screen. Trent Williams breaks off from the line and blocks the Will backer, while Niles Paul blocks the corner on the outside. That leaves Garcon with space to run into and he's able to pick up a first down.

Against the Vikings, the Redskins had a screen option thrown on the back off a run/pass option play.

There's two main reads for Griffin on this play, the first being pre-snap. He reads how the defense lines up, and if they are too heavy on the run, then once again Griffin will pull the ball and throw the screen. On this occasion, the Vikings are playing man coverage and respecting both the run and pass threat. That leads Griffin to his second read of the Will backer, who bites down on the run, allowing Griffin to pull the ball and throw the slant to Davis. Had the Will backer dropped into coverage, the Vikings would have been left with just five defenders against the offensive line and Morris.

This final screen is a variation on a play I'm expecting to see more of this season.

This is a read-option play that allows Griffin to throw the screen instead of running himself. The edge defender in yellow is being read by Griffin. He crashes on the run, allowing the tight end a free run to the strong safety lined up over Joshua Morgan. Morgan drops back and secures the screen pass before turning up field and picking up the first down. Had the edge defender stayed put, just like on any read-option play, Griffin hands the ball off to Morris.

That's the kind of situation the screen game can put a team in. You have to respect the threat of it, but to do that you have to spread out and cover sideline to sideline, sacrificing a run defender in the box for a cover defender on the outside. That leaves you more vulnerable to the run, which you can't afford to be against Griffin and Morris. It's all about playing the numbers game, and the screen game allows you to win that numbers game more often.

Kirk Cousins and Staring Down Receivers

May 31, 2013 in NFL, Uncategorized, Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is, by all accounts, ahead of schedule with his recovery from his knee surgery. But it's still very early in the year and setbacks can happen. In the scenario that Griffin doesn't manage to make it back for week one, Kirk Cousins is set to step in and take the reins. Cousins played well when called upon last year, particularly when given a week to prepare and start like he did against the Cleveland Browns. But Cousins still has plenty of things that he needs to work on in OTAs and training camp before he's ready to be an effective NFL starting quarterback. One of the things I noticed in that Browns game was that he had a tendency to lock on and stare down his receivers. Here's an example.

This was the Redskins second possession of the game. The Redskins stack receiver Joshua Morgan behind Pierre Garcon to make it difficult for the defense to pick up their separate routes. Tight end Niles Paul will run out into the flat as a check-down option as well.

As Cousins drops back, he locks on to Garcon. You can see in the picture above how his helmet is facing the right side, where Garcon is running his route.

Cousins has eyes only for Garcon and is staring him down, waiting for him to come out of his break. Browns cornerback Joe Haden is assigned with covering Garcon on this play. He's playing off-man coverage with a cushion that allows him to keep Garcon in front of him while having one eye on the quarterback. Haden is peaking into the backfield the entire play and knows Cousins is looking his way.

Cousins tips off the play to Haden. Having been watching Cousins the whole way, Haden knows to break on the ball the moment Cousins begins his throwing motion.

Luckily for Cousins, Garcon was able to shield the ball away from Haden. But Haden was able to hit Garcon early enough to force the ball to fall incomplete.

This is something that Cousins got away with most of the time, but if he's going to be a regular starter in the NFL, he needs to break this habit. Better teams will exploit it and it could lead to big interceptions. Cousins though, is a smart guy and a hard worker. He'll see a vast majority of the first team reps in training camp, which is an ideal time for him to work on not tipping off his target to defenders.

Redskins 2013 Draft (CONDENSED)

March 8, 2013 in NFL, Washington Redskins Draft

Here is a GREATLY condensed version of the Washington Redskins 2013 Draft. If you want heights and weights and stats and youtube videos, get em yourself!

Free Agency – London Fletcher needs to return. Figure out what Fred Davis is doing/not doing. Beef up OL. Especially RT. With that out of the way…

The first three picks are intriguing. So many options…
Could look like this…

OPTION 1
#51 – SS – Jonathan Cyprien
#84 – FS – Phillip Thomas
#116 – CB – Leon McFadden

OR this…

OPTION 2
#51 – FS – Eric Reid
#84 – SS – Shamarko Thomas
#116 – CB – Leon McFadden

OR this…

OPTION 3
#51 – CB – David Amerson or Jordan Poyer
#84 – SS – Shamarko Thomas
#116 – FS – DJ Swearinger

Which option do you all like most? I'd take ANY OF THEM!!! Just so many interesting combinations of talent. I really think all 3 picks need to be in the secondary though.

EXCEPTION BEING. If Fred Davis hits the ground running come free agency, I might use #116 and try to steal Travis Kelce (TE) projected to go #94 if he's still available.

The bottom half looks like this… (I decided to roll the dice and go after some firepower, because 32 points a game, just isn't enough for me!!!)

#147 – RB – Kenjon Barner – Projected #153, but I don't want to miss out on this guy waiting for our next pick to roll around. Though we could check to see if those 8 teams need a RB and try waiting for pick #155… I guess… He's fast. Great hands out of the backfield. Always a threat to take it to the house. Could make a GREAT change of pace back from Morris. Possibly the lightening to Morris' thunder? Also has experience returning kicks/punts.

#155 – OL – Brennan Williams or another OL you like?

#181 – WR – Denard Robinson – I like Josh Johnson (CB) as well but I don't want to miss out on Denard Robinson. Dude is lethal. Not a #1, go to WR, but his versatility adds CHAPTERS, not mere pages to the playbook.

#212 – CB – Micah Hyde – Though I also like Marquess Wilson (WR) Brandon Kaufman (WR) and Rodney Smith (WR) with this pick…

Gives us… 1 CB, 1 FS, 1 SS in first 3 picks. Adds teeth to our secondary. BUNCH of big hitting, ball hawking playmakers in those first 3 picks.

Gives us a truly explosive finesse RB to compliment Morris, and a possible return man.

Gives us a 5th round OL (to add to whoever we nab in free agency)

Gives us a WR/RB/QB in Denard Robinson who is nothing more then a human highlight reel. Explosive to the MAX!!!

Gives us a sleeper pick of either an insurance CB or a BIG WR for the red zone.

Assuming we fix our OL in free agency, I think these picks make us a VERY good team! I'd be ecstatic with just about any combination of players mentioned here. (short of 3 FS and zero CB)

This is just my two cents.  Worth exactly what you paid for them.  No more.  No less.

Washington Redskins Week 9: Post-game Thoughts

November 5, 2012 in NFL

Washington Redskins Week 9 Thoughts and Observations:

1. Mike Shanahan Needs to Take Responsibility:

Look the Redskins playoff hopes are extremely small right now, but you don't say that as a head coach. Making statements about now being an evaluation process, is offensive to both the players and the fans. This entire season and Mike Shanahan's three years with the Redskins should be a time where you are evaluating players, and perhaps that is the problem. If Mike Shanahan had been properly evaluating players, perhaps he'd know that Brandon Banks is awful as an offensive weapon, so perhaps he shouldn't be out there in goalline situations (also he's not a good return man, so perhaps we should fix that as well). If he had been evaluating personnel perhaps he'd notice that Alfred Morris has been the Redskins most consistent offensive weapon, and that he should probably have more than 13 carries. Maybe he'd notice that many of the gimmick plays (WR and TE end arounds, Banks formations etc.) are not fooling anyone. Perhaps evaluation could have told Mike Shanahan that the offensive line is a huge mess, and actually really hasn't improved as much as people try to say.

In addition to his post game comments, the buck also stops with Mike Shanahan. He hand-picked this coaching staff and almost this entire roster. He helps with the game planning on offense, and at the end of the day he's the one who decided to ignore (or go cheap) on the offensive line and secondary. Shanahan also is responsible for why this is the most penalized team in the NFL, as well as continued poor clock and game management. Mike Shanahan has to bear responsibility for being outplayed and out coached by a 1-6 team, despite being at home and winning time of possession.

2. Brandon Banks needs to Go:

This Brandon Banks experiment has to end, and it has to end ASAP. He is awful as an offensive weapon and just can't make plays when given the opportunity. And why are you even attempting to use him in to-goal -to go situations. The only chance for Banks to be effective at all is if he can get the ball in space, which is pretty impossible to get when the defense is only three yards away from the goalline. That final play of the game was just horrendous as well, that was almost as awful as "Swinging Gate". Who thought that would be effective? And Why was Banks running around killing the clock? If whatever you were trying to do didn't work, either go to the ground for one more play or go out of bounds.

3. Offensive Play Calling Hurt The Team:

Throughout this game the play-calling was just really poor. In addition to the awful use of Brandon Banks, Mike and Kyle Shanahan have a lot to explain about what they were thinking in this game. Going for it on 4th down, instead of kicking the field goal to make it 7-6, was inexcusable. As was the play call to try and run Griffin to the sideline, with little apparent help. Continuing to try to attempt passes throwing down the field as opposed to the quick passing attack that worked so well the first month of the year, exposed Robert Griffin III to a lot of pressure. Not running Alfred Morris more in the 2nd half, regardless of the score. Not keeping in more backs and tight ends to max protect for Robert Griffin III, when it was clear the offensive line was not up to the task.

4. Robert Griffin III Had  Rough Game:

Yes I know he didn't have a turnover, and no it wasn't a downright awful game, but there is no doubt that he struggled. Griffin was 23-39 for 215 yards, while being sacked 4 times for the loss of 29 yards. That is just a 58.9% completion rating and just a 5.15 yards per attempt average. If you include net yards per attempt, which includes sacks the Redskins passing offense had just 4.3 net yards per attempt. Those numbers are all poor (especially the ypa and nypa). Tough one can point to Griffin having to suffer a few drops, and that he threw some nice strikes, many of his passes were well off the mark, including multiple ones that were complete. Now the pass rush did impact a number of those off target throws, but Griffin bears some of that responsibility as well. Though the failure was mainly with the offensive line and the coaching schemes, Griffin also held on to the ball too long on a number of occasions. Sometimes he was able to make positive plays occur, but other times it led to sacks or errant passes.Griffin was also for the most part contained in the running game. He did have 11 carries for 53 yards, but going beyond the box score they were pretty ineffective scrambles. 21 of those yards came on the final two drives when the game was pretty much out of reach. Early in the game, Griffin was contained, especially on designed runs where the Panthers got him for a loss or no gain multiple times.

5. The Defensive Struggles Continued:

Now there play was perhaps the best of the season (though the Panthers helped out greatly by blowing some opportunities), but it was still very poor overall. They might have limited the Panthers to just 330 yards (which for the Redskins is a positive) and 50 plays, but they still managed to give up some big plays, and allow Carolina to score three touchdowns (including going 2-2 in the Red Zone). The Redskins Defense also failed to force any turnovers, or get any sacks. They managed maybe a couple of pressures, but by in large their pass rush failed them again.

6. The Offensive LIne Matters:

The Redskins ignored the offensive line in free agency, and took project players in the draft (including 3rd rounder Josh LeRibeus), and it is costing them. While the thought has been that the line is better this year, even heading into this game there were some serious concerns. Penalties were up among the offensive line. Sack percentage was up (overall sacks were down, but the Redskins were throwing far less). While the rushing numbers were impressive, Alfred Morris had dealt with a lot of contact, at or behind the line of scrimmage. Also, much of the rushing numbers came from Robert Griffin scrambling after the offensive line broke down in pass protection. Yesterday the line had their worst game, committing three penalties, allowing 4 sacks, numerous pressures and allowing multiple runs to be stopped for no gain or a loss. The Panthers for the most part were able to rush four and get that level of penetration which is very problematic going forward. Though much of the blame will be on RT Tyler Polumbus, the reality is all five linemen struggled, including LT Trent Williams who the team has been suggesting as a Pro Bowl candidate.

POINT-COUNTERPOINT: Assessing Redskins at the Half Way Point

November 2, 2012 in NFL

By John Manuel & Steve Shoup:

JOHN – POINT:

Not only have we reached the halfway point of the 2012 Redskins season but last week’s game marked the halfway point of Vice President and Coach Mike Shanahan's five year contract.  So let’s debate where the team and coach Shanny stand at this point.  Two weeks ago we looked at a possible split between the Giants and Steelers games, but that didn't happen.

The good news is that NFC playoff spots are still up for grabs.  Is this team a legit playoff contender or are the St. Louis Rams on their way to getting a very nice first round pick?

Let’s start with the status of the team this year.  At 3-5, how do you see the second half going?  Will it be another 2-6 run like we have gotten used to?

STEVE – COUNTERPOINT:

Great question and topic! Well at the beginning of the year I predicted 5-11 so a 2-6 run would make me look smart, but I'm going to say it is most likely that we match our first half record and go 3-5 again. I know that will disappoint the people who think we are playoff bound, but currently 13 of the 15 other teams in the NFC are ahead of us in the playoff race. One of the teams that are behind us is our opponent this week the Carolina Panthers. For the Redskins to not finish in the bottom 5 in the league I believe this is a must win for us this week.

If we do finish 6-10 can we really consider this season progress and what does that mean for the Redskins going forward?

JOHN:

I don't see this team as a playoff team either but I have them getting to 7-9 and not falling into the second half swoons of the past as bad.  My feeling is the defense can't be any worse and the offense should at worst stay the same.  Would 7-9 be progress?  At quarterback, yes but everywhere else would be a no.  Saying that progress at quarterback was a given based on who was under center last season and before.

But the colossal defensive drop from middle of the road to complete joke outweighs the quick development of a young quarterback.  What really makes me think that there is going to be no progress at seasons end is all the holes the team will have come off season.  We know that there are holes when it comes to who lines up on the field but now it gets fun for us.

Does it stop at the players?  Do we look at coaches?  Do we look at Shanahan and Allen?  Most say no but they are nowhere close to even .500 so far.

STEVE:

I'll take it a step further and say we'll see progress both at quarterback and running back, but agree that we've regressed quite a bit, primarily on defense. The Redskins are facing a year without much in the way of cap room (even after releasing the dead weight), and without their first round pick.

As for the coaches I think we will see significant turnover on the defensive staff and with Special Teams Coach Danny Smith, but the question is should it stop there? While I love the offense that is playing up to Robert Griffin's strengths, Mike Shanahan currently has a 14-26 record (a .350 winning percentage). That is a worse winning percentage than Jim Zorn, Steve Spurrier or Norv Turner.  Even if we went 6-2 down the stretch, Mike Shanahan will have a 20-28 record in three years (a .417 winning percentage). That is not what you'd expect from one of the highest paid coaches in the league.

Though Vinny's demons still haunt the Redskins, much of this team was signed or drafted by Mike Shanahan, and it is many of his failures that have the Redskins losing. How much blame should be on Mike Shanahan, and should the Redskins move to bring in a better personnel guy to take some of those responsibilities from him?

JOHN:

Vinny the Demon would be a solid Halloween costume although I still have last year’s Sgt. Antonelli in the closet.  I have been one to put a lot of Shanahan's problems onto the personnel moves of the past but do agree that the current roster does have his mark all over it.  I don't blame him for the penalty because those contracts would be hurting us still anyway unless I am wrong.

If it stays the same, the defensive staff will have to be overhauled led by a dismissal of Jim Haslett.  Raheem Morris has done nothing to show he could be the man even with a bunch of backup-types and as you said before he comes as a 4-3 guy anyway.

We really missed out on Wade Phillips to run this 3-4.  Rex Ryan could be available though I think he runs his mouth worse than D Hall.  Shanahan and Allen won't be going anywhere and I don't think Snyder would remove either.  And if he went to Shanahan and said bring in a new personnel guy then it could get interesting.  Possible Marty situation but doubt it.  RG3 is making Snyder money and I doubt he wants to hurt that by removing the Shanahans as well.  I do think Kyle and Mike have done very well with Griffin and I was afraid to break that up in the past weeks.  Now I am thinking there are a lot of coaches that could do well with Griffin.  Where do you stand on this?

STEVE:

The Capgate would still be affecting the Skins, but the cost would have been spread out over more years, so it would have maybe meant that Shanahan couldn't have re-signed Jammal Brown.

Wade Phillips definitely turned it around in Houston, though it is clear they gave him some tools to work with (is it time we start to regret the Kerrigan trade that we took instead of drafting J.J. Watt?). I don't want to see Rex Ryan either as I think he's too much of a distraction, though would be happy for a more aggressive defense.

I do think Robert Griffin would make it easy for a lot of coaches to be successful with, but I do give Shanahan credit for completely basing his system around his QB's strengths and eliminating a lot of the low percentage throws that get most rookies in trouble. Maybe the Redskins could bring in Chip Kelly to run the offense. That could be scary for other opponents (esp. if we add speed around him).

JOHN:

Chip Kelly, wow.  If he flirted with Tampa I think he would jump at the Redskins job especially if he takes home the crystal football this year.  But that is getting way ahead of ourselves.

As for Kerrigan I have been disappointed in his play this season and losing Orakpo is no excuse.  JJ Watt is rolling towards defensive player of the year and it seemed the Skins liked him a lot.  If Kerrigan can turn it around it would be the makings of third consecutive good first round picks for Shanny since Trent Williams seems to be playing at that level.  I am sure we will be running back this same question in nine weeks, or hopefully eleven or twelve from now.

STEVE:

At the time I was happy with the Kerrigan deal and taking Jarvis Jenkins in the 2nd round, because I thought a rush linebacker was a bigger need and the Skins needed the picks. But now it seems pretty clear that J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed are far superior to Kerrigan and Jenkins. And the fact that the Redskins got Leonard Hankerson, Roy Helu, Aldrick Robinson and Maurice Hurt doesn't seem so special anymore. Hopefully Kerrigan will figure it out and get back on the path of being a dominant player. Still not sure I'm ready to claim Trent Williams a success yet (still pretty up and down), but he's at least improving which is good.

Unfortunately I fear we will continue to have some of these questions about replacing coaches and poor personnel decisions before either the 9-12 week window you are hoping. Hopefully the Redskins can improve on their second half failures from the last couple of years and at least go .500 down the stretch.

 

History Shows Election Could Impact Redskins Future

November 1, 2012 in NFL, Redskins history

Can Obama blame his lack of Redskins success on the George W. Bush administration?

Can Obama blame his lack of Redskins success on the George W. Bush administration?

DISCLAIMER:  In the spirit of the election season, the following is intended as a light-hearted look at Washington Redskins history in context with Presidential history.  By no means is it intended to try and sway your vote in the upcoming Presidential Election – we all get enough phone calls every day that try and accomplish that.   Indeed, Fanspeak.com offers no endorsement of either Presidential candidate.  If anything, this piece merely serves as a diversion from the incessant barrage of radio and TV ads, news segments and talk show discussions about the Presidential race.

In watching the Presidential debates and following the news coverage this election season, one pressing issue has yet to be addressed by either President Barack Obama or Governor Mitt Romney. While we have heard in great detail their plans for running the country or acting as Commander and Chief, we have yet to hear their plans for fixing the Washington Redskins in the next four years.

Now one might just consider this to be a local issue, and not meant for the national stage, but the NFL is the most profitable United States sport and the success or failure of the Washington Redskins, matters more than just to the fans living in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC. When the Washington Redskins are successful, it negatively impacts the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles.

What impact can the President of the United States possibly have on an NFL franchise (even one in his backyard)? Well the answer might surprise you, because since moving to Washington for the 1937 season (which coincides nicely with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 2ndterm), the overall success and failure of the Washington Redskins has been along party lines.

Romney has the Allen & Gibbs years that corresponded with his party line for Redskins success.

Romney has the Allen & Gibbs years that corresponded with his party line for Redskins success.

Before getting into this analysis, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. All of this data is from Pro Football Reference. Records from the franchise’s time in Boston are not included.

Although we think of Presidency’s from the year they were elected, their time in office starts in January of the following year. So for instance, while President Jimmy Carter won the 1976 election, the 1977 season was the first one to be played while he was actually serving as the President. Presidents get credit for just the seasons that they were sitting in the Oval Office while the season takes place. For instance, President Richard Nixon resigned in early August, 1974, meaning Gerald Ford was president during the 1974 season. (Note: President Kennedy gets credit for the entire 1963 season, despite being tragically killed during the year.)

Finally, I counted a tie as .5 a win and .5 a loss as is the standard in the NFL today. It was different up until 1972, when ties were ignored. Instead, I went with the current standard (and widely considered better model) to normalize the data. Now let's get to the data:

WASHINGTON REDSKINS RECORDS/PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY: 

 

PRESIDENT: TERM: RECORD/WINNING PERCENTAGE: PLAYOFF RECORD: CHAMPIONSHIPS/SUPERBOWL RECORD:
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt   (DEMOCRAT)  1937-1944 59-22-5 / .715 3-2(4 YEARS) 2(PRE SUPERBOWL ERA)
President Harry Truman (DEMOCRAT) 1945-1952 40-51-2 / .440 0-1(1 YEAR) 0
President Dwight Eisenhower (REPUBLICAN) 1953-1960 36-55-5/ .401 0 0
President John F. Kennedy (DEMOCRAT) 1961-1963 9-30-3 / .250 0 0
President Lyndon B. Johnson(DEMOCRAT) 1964-1968 29-38-3/ .436 0 0
President Richard Nixon  (REPUBLICAN) 1969-1973 43-24-3/ .636 2-3(3 YEARS) 0-1
President Gerald Ford (REPUBLICAN) 1974-1976 28-14 / .667 0-2(2 YEARS) 0
President Jimmy Carter (DEMOCRAT) 1977-1980 33-29 / .532 0 0
President Ronald Reagan (REPUBLICAN) 1981-1988 81-39 / .675 11-3(5 YEARS) 2-1
President George H.W. Bush (REPUBLICAN) 1989-1992 43-21 / .671 5-2(3 YEARS) 1-0
President Bill Clinton (DEMOCRAT) 1993-2000 54-73-1 / .425 1-1(1 YEAR) 0
President George W. Bush  (REPUBLICAN) 2001-2008 58-70 / .453 1-2(2 YEARS) 0
President Barack Obama (DEMOCRAT) 2009-? 18-38 / .321 0-0 0

 

OVERALL COMPARISON: 

 

REPUBLICANS: DEMOCRATS
TOTAL YEARS IN OFFICE/GAMES 36 YEARS, 520 GAMES 39.5YEARS, 537 GAMES
TOTAL RECORD: 289-223-8 242-281-14
WINNING PERCENTAGE .563 .463
YEARS MAKING PLAYOFFS: 15 6
PLAYOFF RECORD: 19-12 4-4
CHAMPIONSHIPS 3 2 (Pre-Super Bowl Era)
SUPER BOWL APPEARANCES 5 0

 

Overall Record and Winning Percentage:

Despite a strong start under President Roosevelt, including the highest winning percentage of any President, the Democrats have seen their Redskins record fall to 242-281-14, good for just a .463 winning percentage.  Based on a 16 game season, that is just 7.4 wins a year, or more likely a 7-8-1 record.  Republicans, despite a disastrous first eight years under President Eisenhower, have found success for the Washington Redskins with a career record of 289-223-8. That comes out to a .563 winning percentage, or just over 9 wins a season or a 9-7 record. Remarkably since 1937 Democrats have held office for 39.5 seasons and Republicans have 36 seasons in office.

Playoff Record and Playoff Seasons:

Republicans held office during 15 of the Washington Redskins 21 playoff seasons. That means 71% of the Redskins playoff runs have come under Republican administrations. Democrats have managed just 6 playoff appearances, and just one of those has come since 1945 (1999). Of their 39 completed seasons while Democrats were in office, the Redskins have gone to the postseason just 15% of the time, compared to 42% of the Republican seasons. Once in the playoffs the Democrats have a respectable 4-4 record, but that still falls short of the Republican’s 19-14 record (.575 winning percentage).

Championships and Super Bowls:

Though the overall Championships record is just 3-2 in favor of the Republicans, it’s actually a wider margin when you consider the level of the competition each faced. When the Redskins won two Championships under President Roosevelt, there were just 10 teams in the league, broken into two divisions.  That of course is significantly fewer than the 13 or 14 teams the Redskins had to navigate just to win the NFC Title in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s (something they did a total of 5 times), to say nothing of also having to endure multiple rounds of playoffs. During the Roosevelt era in the 30’s and 40’s, each Division leader went to the Championship game, meaning there was only an additional playoff game if two teams tied in a particular division. The level of competition was also much different back in the 30’s and 40’s. Top NFL teams were considered good, but essentially just a slight step up from elite college teams. In fact at the time, the NFL Championship winner would play a college All-Star team in an exhibition game prior to the start of the next season. Both times the Washington Redskins won the Championship during Roosevelt’s presidency, they lost to the college All-Star team they faced the next year. That is something that would be unimaginable if such a game was played with the Super Bowl winners of the 80’s and 90’s.

Super Bowl Era: 1966 – Present day:

 

SEASONS: WINNING PERCENTAGE: CHAMPIONSHIPS: PLAYOFF YEARS:
DEMOCRATS:  18.5 SEASONS .430 0 1
REPUBLICANS: 28 SEASONS .600 3 15

 

While it is important to look at the entire history, there is no doubt that the NFL has dramatically changed since the advent of the Super Bowl and the NFL-AFL merger.  This is the time that is considered the start of the “modern era” of the NFL, but I will refer to it as Super Bowl Era. The expansion of teams and talent, makes succeeding in the NFL more challenging during the Super Bowl Era than prior to it. You’d be hard pressed to find a Redskins fan who is willing to consider the Philadelphia Eagles three Championships prior to the Super Bowl Era, anything close to equaling the Redskins three Super Bowl titles (a point that you could actually find consensus with Cowboys and Giants fans).The Super Bowl Era also marks a drastic widening of the Redskins success disparity between Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans in 28 seasons racked up a .600 winning percentage, and went to the playoffs 15 times, including the five Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl Titles. A .600 winning percentage for a 16 game season, would come out to 9.6 wins a year. They amassed 19 winning seasons during that time, and saw four of their five Presidents have a winning percentage over .600. Of their seven four year terms, six of them had winning records (first four years under George W. Bush being the lone exception).

The Democrats in 18.5 seasons saw their winning percentage fall to .430 during the Super Bowl Era. That puts them under 7 wins (6.88) based on a 16 game season. Just one of the four Democratic Presidents, Jimmy Carter, managed a winning percentage above .500 during this time (Note: only the final three years of the Lyndon Johnson Presidency fell within the Super Bowl Era, and the seasons total includes the first 3.5 years of President Obama’s term).  Of the 18 completed seasons, the Democrats have managed just 5 winning records, and have a lone playoff appearance to show for it.

Current Election:

Not only does President Obama have to convince Redskins fans that he can succeed where other Democrats (with the exception of FDR) have not, but he has to answer for his own record. The Redskins under President Obama currently stand at 18-38, a .321 winning percentage, which is the 2ndworst of any President. That winning percentage is so poor that even if the Redskins won their final 8 games of this season, they would finish with just a .406 winning percentage during these four Obama years. This would be the third worst percentage among the 13 presidents to serve since the Redskins moved to Washington.

Does Mike Shanahan's future with the Redskins depend on the outcome of this Presidential Election?

Does Mike Shanahan's future with the Redskins depend on the outcome of this Presidential Election?

If the Redskins lose just one of their remaining games, he falls below the .400 mark. That is unacceptable, and it’s something that he needs to address by showing how he can change the Redskins fortunes if given four more years in office. The President has to present a “New Deal”, to get back to the success the Redskins had under FDR, who still has the highest winning percentage of any president.

For Governor Mitt Romney, he has a strong Republican track record on his side. But he does need to answer questions about how to avoid the struggles the Redskins endured under the previous Republican administration, where the first four years of President George W. Bush laid the groundwork for a sub-.500 record for his entire presidency, despite a strong second term (2 playoff runs).

Governor Romney also needs to answer questions as to why there has been a playoff and Super Bowl success drought for Washington these last two decades. Perhaps he can point to his track record while Governor of Massachusetts, where he” guided” the Patriots to a 50-14 record (.781 winning percentage), and two Super Bowl Titles from 2003-2006. Or perhaps he can point to his family’s history in the NFL, where his father’s first cousin (and his namesake) Milton “Mitt” Romney was a starting quarterback/wing back for George Halas’s Bears in the mid 20’s.

One thing for sure, he doesn’t want to cite the record of his father, George Romney.  While George Romney was Governor of Michigan, spanning the 1963 through 1968 seasons, the Detroit Lions only had one winning season and compiled an overall record of 31-41-9. Regardless, Governor Romney needs to present a plan of how the Redskins can get back to their glory years under Republican Administrations.

Conclusion:

So, what does this all mean?  Essentially, it doesn’t truly mean anything, unless of course, you are one of those rabid political partisans, lacking a sense of humor, who will seize upon an opportunity to try and spin any story to cast your candidate in a favorable light. Certainly in this case, such a Romney supporter could have a field day.  But then again, if Obama is your man, you could point to the Washington Redskins overall losing record under the Bush administration that was inherited by Obama and argue that things have begun to turn around under his administration (think Robert Griffin III acquisition!).

Truth be told, given the Redskins record of sustained mediocrity (or worse), serious fans of the Burgundy and Gold would probably vote for a pig wearing lipstick if they thought it would result in another Lombardi Trophy or two.  Or, to make it more palatable, let’s just call it a HOG!

 

What to do about London Fletcher?

October 29, 2012 in NFL

Though the Washington Redskins lost the game yesterday to the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them 3-5 and on the outside looking in for the NFC playoff race, the biggest loss for the Skins, could be the idea that London Fletcher is a key member of this defense. Fletcher did have six tackles and snuffed out a screen pass, but missed multiple tackles and was once again a liability in coverage. Though it was commendable that Fletcher was even able to play at all given the sore hamstring and balance issues he was dealing with, he became a liability back there. Though it would be easy to say that the injuries affected Fletcher's play, this has been a story that has been building all season.

Fletcher has been the leader of this defense since he came to the Washington Redskins in 2007. He was a strong run defender, who also did well in coverage. His ability to read a play and find the hole, was as good as any player in the league. Fletcher also got high marks for his leadership and ability to get the most out of other players around him. Though the last couple of years his play, particularly in coverage has dropped off slightly, he was still at a high overall level.

What the Washington Redskins have seen this year though has been a dramatic drop-off, as Fletcher has struggled to play at a high level all season. Now Fletcher still has the instincts and can make a big play from time to time, but overall just hasn't been consistent. Now expecting the 5'9" Fletcher, to cover 6'5" tight ends is not ideal, but in the past Fletcher won enough of those battles. This year he's losing them and it isn't even close. The Redskins have seen both good and great tight ends have a field day this year. While he's not always the one in coverage on them, he has been the majority of the time. In addition, Fletcher has struggled against covering running backs out of the back field as he's not had the speed to keep up with them. Fletcher has been forced to commit multiple defensive holding penalties just to try to prevent even bigger plays for the other team.

More troubling than London Fletcher's coverage struggles, is his failures in stopping the run. In the past if Fletcher got his hands on you, or hit you it's a tackle. That isn't the case any more as Fletcher has missed multiple tackles this year, and has even seen some running backs run over him. Even when Fletcher is making a tackle, many times he is tackling them forward, leading to additional yardage allowed. Speed backs have also given Fletcher trouble as he's not been able to get to his position on them near as much as he used to.

London Fletcher is looking to be more like a part time player going forward, and probably needs to be subbed out at least a third of the game. That makes it next to impossible to keep him at his 2013 cap hit of $7.25 million. Unfortunately due to the way his contract was structured, the Redskins would still have to account for $3.25 million of that money, meaning they will save just $4 million next season. The Redskins though probably won't have a choice, but to release Fletcher (note: even if he retires they are still on the hook for the same amount).

Replacing Fletcher won't be easy, but the team did invest their second 4th round pick into inside linebacker Keenan Robinson from Texas. Though he is a bit raw overall, Robinson does have solid coverage ability, and good size and speed to project for the future. The Redskins should begin to use Robinson more (also subbing out Perry Riley some as well), to try to speed up his development for next year. It will also give Washington an indication of whether or not they need to invest money into a good free agent next year, or if Robinson is up for the job. There will no doubt be growing pains replacing a legend like Fletcher, but it is something the Redskins need to start the process of doing.

Washington Redskins Post Game Thoughts: Week 8

October 29, 2012 in NFL

1. The Washington Redskins Got Outplayed:

Typically this year the Washington Redskins have lost because of their failures on defense or special teams, but the games were close due to positive performances from their offense and a big play or two from their defense. That didn't happen against Pittsburgh as they lost in every facet of game. It was an all-around embarrassing performance and one that they need to find some quick answers for. They now stand at 3-5 with some big division games ahead of them. If they are to have any shot at making a playoff run they will need to fix a number of areas.

2. The Receivers "Dropped the Ball":

It doesn't matter what the weather conditions were 10 drops is just unacceptable. Yes I'm sure the weather played a factor, as the Steelers had 4 or 5 drops of their own, but no way does that excuse the receivers performance. While a couple of the passes were off target, the majority were right on the money and need to be hauled in. Some may point to Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis being out, but both of them have poor track records when it comes to drops, so it is hardly a sure thing that they would have made a difference. The fact is even without Garcon and Davis, you should be able to count on guys like Santana Moss, Joshua Morgan and Leonard Hankerson given what resources you've invested in them. The Redskins receiver corps was considered a strength of this offense and they let the team down.

3. The Offensive Line Struggled:

-Yes they only gave up one sack in 35 dropbacks, but that only tells part of the story. They gave up a number of plays where Robert Griffin III had guys in his face and had to move around. This caused some more errant throws or dump offs for minimal gains. The Steelers defensive line and blitzers had a greater control at the point of attack, which always leads to trouble. In the running game they gave up penetration on a number of plays (including three negative carries). Most of Morris's runs saw him dealing with a defender at or behind the line of scrimmage. Of Morris's 13 runs, they may have only blocked well on 3 or 4 of them. The Redskins averaged just 4.1 yards per carry, which was over a yard and a half fewer than their average for the season.

4. The Playcalling was Horrible:

-I get trying to show the Steelers some different looks, but trying to rely on trick plays and misdirection against one of the more experienced units, and probably the most well coached defensive team is a recipe for disaster. That flea-flicker play and the receiver pass play were really bad calls given the situation on the field. If the defense wasn't biting as hard on the zone read play actions, why do you think they would fall apart on a trick play? The Redskins should have also tried to run the ball more in the first three quarters. It is understandable to abandon it in the 4th, but before then Washington ignored their greatest strength. The worst part of the play calling was the lack of urgency in the 4th quarter. The Redskins maybe didn't have to go no-huddle versus a tough defense like the Steelers, but they probably shouldn't have tried to kill the clock either.

5. The Redskins Coverage Failed Once Again:

-This is without a doubt the most reoccurring theme of the Washington Redskins season. The Redskins linebackers were once again unable to cover any tight ends or running backs. At the same time the corners and safeties couldn't cover the Steelers receivers. At this point this lack of coverage ability is expected, as far less talented quarterbacks and receivers have picked apart the Skins, but it is still a big reason why the Redskins lost.

6. No Pressure:

-Perhaps most troubling about the Redskins pass defense is their lack of pressure (again). The secondary was a major hole even before the suspensions and injuries, and was considered the weak part of the Redskins Defense. The only way to mask it would be with a quality pass rush, yet once again that didn't occur. The Redskins front 7 was supposed to be the strength of this team, in particular with getting after the quarterback, but since the 2nd half of the Buccaneers game that hasn't been the case (with the exception of a couple of drives against Minnesota). Yes Ben Roethlisberger is a tough quarterback to pressure as he moves around in the pocket, and can still be effective when he's taking a hit, but you have to at least try. And the excuse of worrying about the coverage is a joke. The Redskins aren't going to be able to cover these receivers even if they dropped 8 guys into coverage. In fact one of their few "stops" all game, was when they ran their cover zero forcing Roethlisberger to throw it short of the first down. The Redskins barely got any pressure on Roethlisberger, and they paid for it. As for any excuses about missing Brian Orakpo, those get thrown out the window given that the Steelers were missing two of their starting offensive linemen.

7. DeAngelo Hall Needs to Stop Talking:

-Last week Hall thought in his infinite wisdom to call out the coverage of the Redskins on that 77 yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz. Hall went out of course and backed up his words with his play…oops. Before getting to his 'incident' at the end of the game, Hall played awful all game. Steelers receivers were getting quite a bit of separation from him, and made a number of catches where he was defending. Hall also missed multiple tackles during the game, which cost the Redskins some longer gains. Finally, while the game was really out of reach, Hall's outburst on the officials showed once again his lack of leadership, sportsmanship and maturity. It was completely uncalled for. It will also cost the Redskins next week as well, as Hall could very likely be suspended by the league. When Hall is reinstated the Redskins should absolutely consider cutting him now, instead of waiting till after the season. They need to send a message that those kinds of outburst won't be tolerate, and to not continue to reward Hall's poor play.

Washington Redskins Keys to the Game: Week 8

October 26, 2012 in NFL

5 Keys to the Game for the Washington Redskins

1. Let Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III Run Wild:

-The Washington Redskins have done a nice job running effectively against strong rushing defenses this year, but could face a tougher challenge this week. Not only are the Steelers ranked 9th in rushing yards allowed, but they have a long history of being stingy against the run. Honestly though the Steelers Defense is only stingy because they limit teams rushing attempts (5th least). From a yards per carry basis Pittsburgh ranks 19th in the league allowing 4.1 yards per carry. The Washington Redskins need to run early and often against the Steelers eating up yards and the clock. The key will be to have early success, so the game will be close enough throughout so the Redskins won't feel the need to abandon the run. Though Pittsburgh can be susceptible against the run, the Redskins can't get complacent. Last week against New York, after a great first half Alfred Morris was shut down in the 2nd half. That is something the Redskins can't afford to repeat itself on Sunday.

2. Don't Get Too Aggressive Throwing the Ball:

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Robert Griffin III may be a very efficient and accurate passer, but this is not the game you want to be relying on his arm. Even without safety Troy Polumalu the Steelers pass coverage has been really good this year. They are 2nd in the league in fewest yards allowed through the air, and 7th overall in net yards per attempt. They have yet to allow a 300 yard game this season and in three games they have kept the opponent to under 200 yards passing (they have yet to give up more than 265 in a game). The Redskins need to use their passing attack to supplement their ground game in this contest.  Griffin needs to stick with the quick passing attack that has worked so well for him this season.

3. Get Pressure on Ben Roethlisberger:

That is easier said than done, because Roethlisberger is great at buying time in the pocket and completing passes while under duress, but it is still the Washington Redskins only shot at slowing down this Steelers passing attack. The Redskins secondary and linebackers don't stand a chance of covering Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller, so the pass rush has to force as many off target (and hopefully some interceptions) throws and check downs as possible. The good news is the Steelers line is banged up, the bad news is the Redskins pass rush has been non-existent basically since Brian Orakpo got injured. The Redskins need to do whatever they can to find ways to bring pressure. Whether they have bring 5 or 6 defenders on every snap is not an issue. The Redskins could have 11 guys in coverage and it wouldn't help their pass defense. Whatever it takes to get to Roethlisberger and force some negative plays the Redskins have to do it.

4. Don't Ignore the Steelers Pass Rush:

So far this season the Steelers haven't been generating a lot of pressure on the quarterback, but that doesn't mean the Washington Redskins can ignore this as a possibility. The Steelers pass rush has been limited somewhat due to injury, but for the first time all season James Harrison, Lamarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons are all missing from the Steelers injury report. The Redskins need to have a game plan in place for when these guys will be blitzing, and how to keep Robert Griffin away from them as much as possible. This is a big reason why the Redskins should maintain their quick passing game to try to neutralize this as much as possible.  The Redskins should also look to keep a back in to block, as Pittsburgh will try to mix-up where they are coming from.

5. Play Fundamental Football:

The Washington Redskins need to play smart and efficient football. They need to win the turnover battle, the field position battle and the time of possession battle. Yes sometimes a team can lose those battles and still win the game, but it's not easy. And the more of those battles you lose (or tie) the harder it is. The Redskins are already on the road so they don't need any additional problems. They need to control the clock with their running game. Protect the football after a poor week against the Giants where they turned it over four times. Finally they need their special teams to come up big; both with downing the ball deep in Pittsburgh territory and getting positive returns. These things may all sound simple, but it won't be easy to win all three. .