Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mediocrity, Thy Name is Redskin

I've now had three days to cool off from the god awful performance by the Washington Redskins as they fell to a rebuilding Detroit Lions. It still stings and it hurts more even now that the Redskins have become the laughing stock of the NFL.

I'm not going to waste your time with a recap of the game because to quote David Byrne of the Talking Heads...."Same as it ever was".

Here's the deal. The Redskins are still struggling from many of the same things that they struggled with in 2008. Only it seems more problematic in 2009 because of the following reasons:
1. They've had a full year under the same coach/system/scheme and should be improved.
2. The problems have gotten worse or are more notable than in 2008.
3. The adjustments made in the off season (including acquisitions) haven't worked or have made things worse.
4. Players still aren't executing or stepping up and making plays despite being given opportunities.

So lets look at the problems:
1. The team can't run the ball.
This is a huge concern for the Redskins because for the past five plus year the Redskins have been a power rushing team. They really are still a rushing team despite the attempt to improve upon the passing game. So far the team can't get much of a rush at all. The team currently averages 91 yards a game (24th in the league), but factor out the scrambles by Jason Campbell and the average is even worse. Portis averages 3.9 yds/carry. No other running back is above 2 yards/carry and the Skins currently have 5 running backs on the active roster (6 if you count FB Mike Sellers).
So What's the problem?
Well, the O-line has really, really, really struggled in run blocking. Stephon Heyer is just not a very good run blocker. Randy Thomas is injured again and Casey Rabach has been blown back many time especially against bigger tacklers. The Skins have tried to run more to the left, but teams are keying on it (since this is what they did mostly in 2008 as well) and shutting it down.
It also seems that either the Skins run a stretch play to the left or a draw play up the middle. Also Portis is injured and may be hitting that wall that all RBs have to face when they get near 30.

2. The Redskins can't score, especially in the Red Zone.
When you watched the Detroit game and Moss ran for the big TD, were you worried that he'd get tackled around the 5 and then the Skins wouldn't score a TD? I bet you did. It's a clear fact, the Skins can't score when they get into the Red Zone.
So What's the problem?
I am starting to believe thatZorn has serious confidence issues with Campbell on throwing into the end zone. It wasn't until last week that we finally saw a fade route to Malcolm Kelly. Most of the other pass plays tend to be more of the horizontal variety (swing pass, screen) to a RB. Second, Zorn's playcalling has been lousy in the Red Zone. The runs are predictable (stretch play left, off-tackle left, draw play) and the passing has again been minimal and predictable. Third, I don't think Zorn has used his players correctly. Pull Santana Moss out (unless you want to run a bubble screen) put in Devin Thomas or Marko Micthell for size. Where are the shots to Cooley or Randle-El? these are the two most reliable pass catchers this season and yet I can only remember two passes going to these guys (one was Campbell throwing away a pass near Randle-El, the other was the Portis option pass to Cooley). Where's a bootleg by Campbell? Let him run for a TD. Where's Fred Davis? There also has been a lack of execution as guys have dropped TDs. Finally, we have to look again to the O-line problems as a reason for the failed runs and for pressure on Campbell.

There's more but these are the biggest two and I think it comes down to the O-line, the play calling and the quarterback play.

1. Skins can't stop the run.
In a total of three games, the Skins have given up 383 yards. That's crazy. Although I have had issues with the pressure from the Blache defense, one thing has always stood out. They stop the run. This unit hasn't been able to do that.
So What's the problem?
Well, first things first......the tackling has been horrible. With exception to London Fletcher, there have been many, many missed tackles. That's a basic thing that all players should know how to do and the Skins are failing. Secondly, I think the scheme has had a breakdown. With Haynesworth being added, I think there has been a lack of discipline in gap protection that Blache expects. This is another problem with how the FO brings in players that don't fit the coach's scheme. Notice how the Skins struggled when Jason Taylor was added to the mix?

2. The Skins D can't get off the field (3rd down conversions)
So far the opposing teams have converted 22/43 of their 3rd down attempts. That's 51% of the time. So a team gets to a 3rd down and half of the time they'll convert and get a new set of downs. Wonder why the Skins O is only on the field for 50 plays a game? Wonder why the time of possession is so lousy? Now you know.
So What's the problem?
Lots of reasons on this one. First, the scheme has to play a factor. When it's third and 6 and you have your corners play off with a 8-10 yard cushion, what would you the viewer at home do? Would you throw it deep or throw a nice 6 yard slant or comeback route and get another first down? Yeah....I thought so. Second, there's no significant pressure being caused on third downs. I don't blame Haynesworth on this. He's taking on his 1-2 blockers and still being a disruption. The fact of the matter is that the other players aren't winning their 1 on 1 matchups. Andre Carter has struggled. There isn't a real decent blitz package currently being used by the Skins either. The only blitzes I do see are of the delayed variety and they tend to get picked up easily.

I could go on for hours about this but these are the big problems........

Next post will be about my plan on how to fix things.

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