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Grading the Redskins at the bye: Offense


Grading the Redskins at the bye: Offense

How have the Redskins done this year going into the bye? Over the next three days Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir grade the team’s performance unit by unit. Today, we look at the offense.

Tandler’s grade: B+

For the first time since 2005, the Redskins have an offense that can consistently put points on the board. The main reason is, of course, the play of Robert Griffin III, who has given Redskins fans something to cheer for at the position for the first time in  years. He has been operating without his top receiver, Pierre Garçon, for most of the season and yet he continues to produce and give the Redskins a chance to win week after week.

RG3 isn’t the only bright spot on offense. Alfred Morris is among the league’s leading rushers and runs with a style that is fun to watch. Trent Williams is having a Pro
Bowl type season at left tackle and Will Montgomery is putting in a solid season at center.

And you have to give Mike and Kyle Shanahan some credit here. After many said they wouldn’t (looking at you, McNabb!), they have tailored their offense to suit Griffin’s unique skill set. The result is a scheme that has confounded opponents and it has been interesting to watch it unfold.

El-Bashir’s grade: B-

Two weeks ago, Robert Griffin III and the Redskins’ offense would have earned an ‘A.’ Because, let’s be honest here, no one anticipated this unit leaping from 18 points per game in 2011 to an average of 29.7 points per outing through this season’s first six games – even with Griffin under center.

But the offense hasn’t been so effective the past two weeks as the team produced 12 and 13 points, respectively. Some of the drop off can be blamed on poor execution (coaches aren’t to blame for the 10 dropped passes in Pittsburgh or, to a certain extent, the rash of drive-halting penalties against the Panthers). A bit of the problem seems to be injuries to key playmakers (top receivers Pierre Garçon and Fred Davis missed both games). But there’s also the sneaking suspicion that opposing defensive coordinators have caught up to Mike and Kyle Shanahan’s innovative offense.

In the long term, the unit is in good shape with Griffin, Alfred Morris, Garçon (assuming he gets healthy) and other emerging players. The short term, however, remains a concern on the back half of the season and the Shanahans can’t figure out how to resuscitate a once prolific attack. 

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Redskins running back Robert Kelley likely to get more carries Sunday

Redskins running back Robert Kelley likely to get more carries Sunday

The Redskins are about to find out what Robert Kelley can do and if their gamble to stay in-house at the running back position is going to pay off.

Whether Matt Jones is able to play on Sunday against the Bengals or not, it seems inevitable that Kelley, the undrafted rookie out of Tulane, will get a lot of carries. His career high in rushing attempts in a game is five. If Jones doesn’t play, Kelley could surpass that total in the first quarter. Jay Gruden said that Kelley, not Chris Thompson, will get the lead back role.

“You know, Chris has such an important role as far as third downs and his specialty role that we need him in that role and he’s not a very big guy,” Gruden said. “We don’t want to give him the ball 35 times between the tackles, you know? We’d like to have a more physical guy do that. Chris is going to get plenty of touches without a doubt but if Matt can’t go it’ll be mainly Chris and obviously Robert.”

RELATED: Preparing for A.J. Green, with or without Josh Norman

Even if Jones can go, his knee injury and his fumbling problems are likely to reduce his normal workload. Some of his carries are likely to go to Kelley.

While many would like to see what Kelley can do in extended action there is no way of knowing how effective he may be. It is something of a crapshoot. Kelley is averaging an impressive 6.1 yards per carry, but that number is inflated by 45-yard run against the Eagles. Still, 21 of his 31 carries have gone for five yards or longer. If he can get five or more on two out of three carries and protect the football on Sunday the coaches will be very happy.

One person with a vested interest in seeing Kelley succeed is Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan. All offseason, fans and many in the media were asking where the veteran running back was. Few thought it would be wise to go into the season with just Jones, who is in his second season and his first as a starter, and Thompson, who has just one full season in the third-down role.

But no veteran running back was signed, and the job as the third running back went to Kelley. If he can handle the role then McCloughan’s strategy will be vindicated. If not, the GM will have some egg on his face as he searches for an acceptable alternative to Jones.

MUST SEE: Redskins gets quizzed on British culture before London game

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How the Redskins plan to stop A.J. Green if Josh Norman can't play

How the Redskins plan to stop A.J. Green if Josh Norman can't play

The Redskins may be forced to cover one of the best receivers in the NFL without one of the best corners in the NFL.

Coach Jay Gruden is very familiar with the receiver, the Bengals’ A.J. Green. Cincinnati drafted Green in the first round in 2011, Gruden’s first year as the offensive coordinator there. In three seasons with Gruden, Green averaged 87 receptions, 1,278 yards, and 10 touchdowns.

Green has done quite well in the wake of Gruden’s departure in 2014 to become the Redskins’ head coach. He is on pace for a career season, with 50 receptions for 775 yards through seven games. Stopping the Bengals offense means stopping, or at least slowing down, No. 18.

“A.J. is a different animal,” said Gruden. “You know, he is 6-foot-3-and-a-half, 6-foot-4. He’s very strong, and he’s got the ball tracking ability unlike anybody we’ve ever seen.”

The Redskins have just the guy to slow Green down under contract but Josh Norman’s status for the game is up in the air as he is in the NFL concussion protocol. The All-Pro cornerback will visit an independent neurologist later today. He may get clearance to make the trip to London with the team. But even if he does a setback of some sort could keep him out of the game.


If Norman can’t play, the Redskins will play a mix of coverages.

“A.J. has been pretty effective against just about any corner he’s ever gone against,” said Gruden.” And you have to do different things against him. You know, if you think we’re going to play Cover 0 with man-to-man the whole time, you’re going be really mistaken.

“We’re going to have to change up the coverages, figure out ways to beat him up a little bit at the line of scrimmage, and play a safety over the top from time to time, play a third, play somebody underneath him, and then play some man-to-man. We’re going to have to play some man-to-man eventually, whether it’s [Quinton] Dunbar, whether it’s [Bashaud] Breeland, [Greg] Toler, whoever it is if Norman doesn’t go.”

It sound like the Redskins are going to take a “kitchen sink” approach to covering Green or perhaps they haven’t yet figured out how to handle him.

Green is the best receiver the Redskins have faced since taking on Antonio Brown of the Steelers in the season opener. They had all offseason to try to figure out how to handle him and they had Norman but Brown still caught eight passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. So maybe they have to try to figure out how to win even if Green goes off.

And this season’s results show that’s possible. The Bengals are 3-4 despite Green’s gaudy stats. So teams are figuring out some way to mitigate the damage that the star receiver inflicts on a regular basis.