Through three games, the Redskins offense is trending up, but poor red zone results continue to hamper the team's scoring output. Looking at the numbers, however, and it appears an offensive breakout is coming.
The Redskins rank fifth overall in yards-per-game, averaging more than 400 total yards. Kirk Cousins is second in the league with 989 passing yards, behind only Drew Brees, and is averaging nearly 330 yards-per-game.
Just based on the passing game alone, Washington should be scoring. Only they're not, yet anyway.
Through three games the 'Skins are averaging just under 23 points-per-game, landing 18th out of 32 NFL teams. While their average is dragged down by scoring just 16 points in a Week 1 loss to the Steelers, in games against the Cowboys and the Giants the team repeatedly left points on the field by taking red zone field goals instead of touchdowns.
"Sometimes coming away with points is better than trying to force the ball and throwing an interception," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Monday aftet the win over the Giants.
"A couple of times we were down there, they called a quarterback draw on third down and goal thinking that if we don’t get it, we’re still going to kick the field goal and take the lead. So that was part of me being too conservative maybe."
Gruden's comments point to some of the reasons for the Redskins red zone failures: playcalling, turnovers and accepting three instead of seven points. While some fans scream about the frequency of fade patterns, others want more run plays and less empty back sets. Further, Cousins threw a costly interception in the end zone against Dallas that would have at least netted a field goal.
Look again at the numbers - 5th in yards-per-game, 18th in points-per-game. The sample size is very small in just three games, but looking back to 2015, some interesting stats appear. The Cardinals led the NFL averaging 408 YPG and 30.6 PPG. Through three games, the Redskins are averaging 406 YPG, suggesting a scoring outburst should be on the way. It's also important to consider the Redskins offensive numbers thus far seem sustainable, and could actually improve. A better run game appeared to show its face against the Giants, and that will boost the offense moving forward.
The Junkies agreed (check out the video above). Jason 'Lurch' Bishop made the case for better red zone scoring simply, "Eventually it's going to come around. It just will."
J.P. Flaim pointed out that Sunday against Cleveland could be that game. The Browns come into Sunday's contest giving up 28 PPG, tied with Jacksonville for 25th in the league.
All signs point to an offensive outburst for Kirk Cousins and the Redskins, and the Browns might be on the receiving end.
With Kory Lichtensteiger battling calf and back injuries, the Redskins have serious issues with depth at center. This is nothing new.
When the Redskins got to the NFL Draft in May, some thought had Washington targeting Alabama center Ryan Kelly. A beast at 'Bama, 'Skins broadcaster Chris Cooley called Kelly the best prospect at his position in the draft by a wider margin than any other player at any other position. Drafting Kelly would have solved many of Washington's offensive line problems, but that plan went awry when the Colts picked Kelly with the 18th pick. Washington did not draft until 21, and eventually would trade down a spot and take receiver Josh Doctson.
With Kelly off the board, the Redskins returned to Richmond for training camp with Kory Lichtensteiger as their starting center. Though often a target of fan criticism, Lichtensteiger provides good leadership along the offensive line and expertly identifies defensive fronts, making calls quickly for his fellow linemates.
Despite that, Lichtensteiger has struggled at times playing center. Knowing that, Scot McCloughan attempted to make a trade for former Patriots center Bryan Stork in late August. The whole move for Stork was bizarre, as the player contemplated retirement and eventually failed his physical, nullifying the trade.
Beyond Stork, the Redskins worked to develop another center in Austin Reiter. A 7th-round pick in 2015, Reiter spent last season on the Washington practice squad and opened the 2016 year in the same spot. The Browns came in and poached Reiter to their 53-man roster, and this weekend, he will likley hit the field at FedEx though wearing a different uniform.
What makes Reiter's name so interesting is that injuries to not just Lichtensteiger but also left guard Shawn Lauvao mean that backup center/guard Spencer Long must play center as there is nobody else capable on the roster. Jay Gruden said Monday that the team will be forced to bring in a "center-type" player this week as there are no other healthy options outside of Long.
With Long at center and if Lauvao is out as many suspect, the Redskins must turn to second-year man Arie Kouandjio at guard, or move veteran Pro Bowler Trent Williams inside and play Ty Nsekhe at tackle. Neither option is ideal.
Injuries to Lichtensteiger and Lauvao are causing the musical chairs on the Redskins offensive line, but it's not like the Washington brass didn't know they had little depth in the middle. Despite their efforts - Kelly has now started three games for the Colts as a rookie, Stork failed his physical, and Reiter is in Cleveland - they just could not fix it in time.