Changes The Redskins Need To Make In 2014
I'm beginning to feel nauseated from discussing the Washington Redskins shortcomings and deficiencies every week. Due to their horrible season, poor play and many problems, they have given me mostly negative material to work with. So, to create something positive for next season that won't make me feel sick to talk about, here are some suggestions for what the Redskins need to work on to have a more successful 2014.
1. Establish The Run Game
While the Redskins ranked fifth in the NFL this season with 135.2 yards per game and 2,164 total yards, they didn't properly establish their run game. Emphasis on the word establish. They may have racked up a massive amount of rushing yards in 2013, but they never focused on the strongest part of their offense.
The strongest cog in their rushing attack is second-year RB Alfred Morris. Morris rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns in his rookie season but only 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns in his sophomore season. This can attributed to his decrease in carries as his average of yards per rush barely changed from 4.8 in 2012 to 4.6 in 2013 — Morris wasn't struggling to run the ball. Morris carried the ball 335 times last season as opposed to 276 times this season. The Redskins neglected to stay with what worked for them last year that also helped them win a division title: handing the ball off to a one-time Pro Bowler who rushed for more than 1,600 yards.
Morris did receive 17.2 carries per game this season, but the offense itself was heavily imbalanced. In 2013, the Redskins averaged 38 passing plays per game but only 28 rushing plays per game. This baffles me as they have weapons on the ground including Morris, his backups Roy Helu and Evan Royster, FB Darrel Young and QB Robert Griffin III.
If the Redskins want to be successful they need to take some notes on the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks' playbooks. Both teams have had success over the past few seasons because they built their offenses around the run game. They got RBs Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch going, and once they were effective, defenses would play call to stop them. That would open up the passing game, or even run plays for their QBs Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson.
2. Play Better Defense / Hire New Defensive Coordinator
We all know Washington played atrociously on the defensive side of the ball this year — it simply was a mess. The Redskins gave up 354.1 yards per game and allowed 29.9 points per game — second most in the league. Three times this year, the 'Skins allowed more than 40 points and seven times they allowed more than 30. Defense was their biggest problem even after you take into account everything that went on with the offense, such as RGIII being benched.
Washington's poor defensive play is another aspect of this season that really didn't make sense to me. The previous season their defense had rallied together for their last seven games to pull out seven wins. It seemed like they were trending upward. And add to that the personnel they have on their defense: OLB Ryan Kerrigan, OLB Brian Orakpo, MLB Perry Riley, MLB London Fletcher (now retired), CB Josh Wilson, CB DeAngelo Hall, S Brandon Meriweather and DT Barry Cofield. There is/was a lot of young talent on the Redskins' defense that are already battle-tested, along with some experienced veterans who are still playing quality football. So this inability to play well together given previous success and a great cast of starters makes me not question the players but the coaching. Specifically, the defensive coordinator.
It is time that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is relieved of his duties. The Redskins defense couldn't stop anyone this year even with their high-quality personnel. Haslett clearly didn't have the right scheme in place or couldn't rally his players to play solid football as one cohesive unit. Sorry, Jim, but your time should be up in Washington.
3. Get A Second Wide Receiver Option
Everyone should have seen this one coming. While RGIII may have not had the best season, he wasn't provided much help in terms of wide receivers. This season, the quarterbacks only real target was WR Pierre Garçon. Garçon had a monster year, catching 113 passes for 1,346 yards and five touchdowns (he would have been a Pro Bowler if it weren't for the other great receivers this season).
Next on the list? TE Jordan Reed with 45 catches, 499 yards and three touchdowns. And Reed was a rookie tight end who wasn't expected to contribute this season. After him is veteran WR Santana Moss with 42 catches, 452 yards and two touchdowns.
The hard truth is that the drop-off from the No. 1 to No. 2 receivers for the Redskins this season — and just wide receivers, not including tight ends — was 113 catches to 42. That's a difference of 71 catches between Washington's two most productive receivers (if you can call Moss's season productive). This blatantly shows that the Redskins, and RGIII, need another receiver.
Washington doesn't have a first-round pick this year, so they can't expect to get a top three wide receiver in the draft without trading up. If they don't take a receiver in the second round, like I think they should, then I highly suggest they go after a free agent wide out. And this isn't a bad year for free agent wide receivers. The Redskins will be able to offer contracts to Eric Decker, Jeremy Maclin, Hakeem Nicks, Julian Edelman, James Jones and many more.
4. Improve Offensive Line Play
A strong run game in 2013 would, under normal circumstances, point to a competent offensive line. But another stat besides rushing yards says otherwise. And that stat is quarterback hits. In 2013, the Redskins allowed their quarterback to be hit 95 times, 10th most in the league.
And the poor line play was evident when watching their games this season. It seemed as if on every play RGIII or Kirk Cousins have two seconds at most to drop back and get rid of the ball. A good offensive line will give their quarterback at least four to five seconds to make a decision. The Redskins, as the quarterback hits stat says, allowed pass rushers to get to their quarterback way too often.
If the Redskins want their pass attack and third year quarterback to flourish next season, they need to step it up. They need to give RGIII more protection and time. This will not only allow him to have more time to pass and play better, but will keep him safe and possibly prevent future injuries.
And in the run game, offensive line play is equally crucial. With the talents of Morris and RGIII running the ball, it will mainly be up to the big guys up front to create holes and make key blocks.
5. Tweak The Offense's Play Calling
Whoever is the offensive coordinator next year will need to make some adjustments when it comes to play calling. While I do like the pistol offense and the plays that were installed for RGIII, they may need to be toned down or modified.
When I see Washington's plays unfold each down, many appear to put RGIII in danger of receiving a big hit. He is already struggling with when to know to slide, so calling plays that put him in positions to make that decision increases his probability of getting hurt. The Redskins need to decrease those plays significantly and add in designed runs that will allow him to get into open space for big gains and stay away from defenders.
The read-option is another big part of the Redskins' offense that needs to be adjusted. The read-option is perfect for RGIII, but it is also another play that puts him in harm's way. The Redskins need to look at what the Philadelphia Eagles did with the read-option this year. When QB Nick Foles came into the starting quarterback role, head coach Chip Kelly knew he wouldn't be as dangerous a runner as QB Michael Vick. So, on most read-options, or plays designed to look like read-options, Foles handed the ball off. And on the ones he didn't hand off, they ended being play-action fakes that temporarily froze defenses and allowed him to throw the ball to an open receiver. If Washington had read-options, or pseudo read-options like this, then it would keep RGIII safe and make their offense more dynamic. He has the arm to make big throws and is accurate enough to win games with just his arm alone.
The Redskins in 2014 need to be smarter with their play calling. To maximize RGIII and all of his talents, they need to keep him safe, allow him to use his arm to propel the Redskins to victory and use his Olympic speed when defenses least (emphasis on least) expect it.