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Washington Redskins

What you need to know about Redskins heading into camp

09 October, 2016: Washington Redskins running back Matt Jones (31) in action during a match between the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire)
Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire

For a team that has posted winning records the last two years and at times showed the ability to play with anybody, the Washington Redskins have had another offseason of turmoil.

Not only have they lost both coordinators and their general manager, but their contract situation with quarterback Kirk Cousins has been a huge media story and distraction. If that weren’t bad enough, they lost their best two receivers, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, in free agency. How do you replace two 1,000-yard guys?

The Redskins believe they still have enough weapons to be solid in the passing game, but the run game is another story. The defense is going through a makeover, with as many as seven new starters, and they vow to be much more aggressive in 2017.

Offense

Sean McVay is gone, but this offense will not show much change, with Matt Cavanaugh moving to the coordinator role and head coach Jay Gruden taking over play-calling duties. Their biggest challenge is to find a run game that sets up play action, which Gruden loves, and we expect the passing game to do its part, even with the loss of two solid WRs. Cousins does a nice job of taking what the defense gives him. If they sit back to stop the deep ball, he will nickel and dime the defense with underneath throws. If they come after him, he will not hesitate to go deep. This is a bread-and-butter play to their elite tight end Jordan Reed.

Play-action passing game

They really try to sell the run to the left with an excellent play-action fake, and they even pull the backside OG as a lead run blocker to influence the defense. The Cover-2 safeties drift outside to help the DCs in coverage and that opens up the middle of the field, where Washington loves to attack. The TE on the left releases over the middle on a seam route (exactly where you attack the Cover 2) and the LB who should drop back and cover the deep middle bites on the run fake and is late in his drop. The TE is wide open for a nice 22-yard TD reception. They really need a better run game to set up a good Cousins play-action package.

Defense

Greg Manusky takes over this defense and he promises much more aggressive schemes in an effort to create big plays and produce turnovers, and this defense will be less predictable. The Redskins are decent on the edges of the defense, but they really have problems inside, both against the run and pass, and they may blitz more to cover up their deficiencies at safety. Because they don’t have a great edge pass rush, they may be forced to play more man schemes to fit with the blitz instead of their favored Cover 3 looks. This is a play that illustrates their problems inside on the backend.

Protect the middle

They give up a lot of big passing plays between the hashes, partly because of poor coverage skills by their LBs and safeties. On this play, the offense comes out with a balanced two TE, two WR, one RB set and the defense counters with a four-man rush, while seven defenders drop into coverage with nickel personnel. On the snap, all five potential receivers release on routes, as the defense drops into seven zones. At first glance the passing windows look really tight, but the center field DS really drops deep and the LBs don’t cover the short middle, and the QB sees it and he sends the TE between the seams to attack the sweet spot in this defense for a 17-yard TD. They must fix the interior of this pass defense.

5 additional summer film evaluations

  1. This passing game took a big offseason hit — How in the world can they recover from the offseason loss of two 1,000-yard WRs? It won’t be easy, but this is a very smart pass offense and they still have a terrific QB and some quality receiving pieces in place. New FA Terrelle Pryor is solid, young guys Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder should show improvement, and TE Reed is a nightmare matchup. They may be OK, but not dynamic.
  2. They must figure out a way to run the ball — This is a huge issue. Matt Jones is a nonfactor, they like Rob Kelley, but he faded down the stretch in 2016, and Chris Thompson is mostly a third-down RB. No run game means no play action and too much reliance on the passing game, and it could waste a good run-blocking OL, and it also allows defenses to sit back in coverage and defend the pass. It is really surprising that they didn’t make RB an offseason priority.
  3. Have they done enough on defense to show improvement? They were active in free agency, but most of their acquisitions are journeyman role players and not real difference-makers. Manusky will run a much more aggressive 3-4 defense that has a chance to be solid on the edges, but inside they are vulnerable on all three levels. We may see a lot more blitzes and man schemes behind it, and we will no longer see a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy.
  4. Cousins knows how to handle distractions — Is there more drama around any NFL QB? He deals with it, he adjusts to the targets that he has, and he plays with underrated confidence. On film he can make every NFL throw, and he is a master at reading the defense and finding the right matchup. He throws a good deep ball, but because of the Redskins’ struggling run game, defenses sit back and take away the deep ball, forcing him to throw too many underneath routes.
  5. This OL flies under the radar — They have an elite coach in Bill Callahan and their continuity is a real plus. They are solid at every position except LOG, which will be a focus in training camp. This is an athletic front five and they do a nice job of blocking in space and getting to the second level, and they have morphed into a power run-blocking group. Their talent in the run game may be wasted if they don’t find a quality back to run behind them.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Christian Worsham

    Jul 14, 2017 at 12:16 am

    Apparently, you did not do all of your homework Mr. Horton. In reference to the Redskins not addressing the running game, you have forgotten the Redskins added 4th Round draft pick, Samaje Perine. Perine is the Oklahoma Sooners all-time leading rusher (if I am not mistaken) and accomplished such a feat with first round talent Joe Mixon sharing the carries, which cannot be overlooked or discredited. Perine’s strength and power is off the charts and whose stregth and power was recently compared to that of one future Hall of Fame running back, Adrian Peterson. Perine will be an excellent compliment to “Fat” Rob Kelley who really is not all that “fat”. He was reported to have trimmed down this offseason and has prepared his body to handle the rigors of a 16 game NFL season as a starting running back. Remember, he enetered last season in week 7 after the ugly loss to Detroit as an undrafted free agent rookie out of a smaller school Tulane and still was in the top half of the league’s starting running backs in total rushing yards gained. The Redskins rushing attack led by Kelley will only get and be better after last year’s experience and will be helped out by the arrival of the car-lifting workout warrior and weight room machine Samaje Perine. In addition, the offensive line last year had to adjust moving Spencer Long to center, where he had absolutely zero previous experience, after Kory Lichtensteiger was placed on the IR after week 3. Therefore the learning curve for Long learning the center position, also sometimes referred to as the “director” of the offensive line making calls and adjustments for the entire unit, was a work in progress for the rest of the year. After gaining last years vital experience learning the position and how to make the proper calls and adjustments for the entire offensive line, Long and the rest of the unit should be even more stout and dominant. In essence, hopefully making some die-hard Redskins fans daydream and trying to walk back in time to thinking these are the original Hogs of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, but glad to have the Hogs 2.0 of today. One other note to mention, the Redskins do also have on their depth chart, up and comers Keith Marshall and Mack Brown (both also undrafted free agent rookies last year) both still growing in the Nfl and gaining very important experience as well. Note: Mack Brown’s 60 yard Touchdown run versus Chicago last December. And finally the wild card, Matt Jones could very easily resurrect his career if he can finally solve the fumbling issue (Tiki Barber of the Giants is a name that comes to my mind as a perfect example of a starting running back who is never out of the fight because of fumbling issues until the final roster is set and as well as on Game Day when the actives and inactives are determined)

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