The Redskins are in a box. It keeps getting smaller and smaller as the losses pile up. They need to break out of it in terms of thinking, effort, and enthusiasm. Here are a few ways they can do that:
--Get Rocky McIntosh into the game more often. The Redskins first draft pick has what the defense has been missing—speed and solid tackling ability. Perhaps having the rookie flying around the field will inspire some more experience, higher-paid defenders to start doing the same. He doesn’t necessarily have to start, although Warrick Holdman does seem to be regressing to the way he played last year when he, well, sucked. But Gregg Williams needs to conjure up a few more packages that give McIntosh some significant playing time.
--Get some more intermediate and long passes into the offense. Whether it’s Mark Brunell or Jason Campbell pulling the trigger, something has to be done to loosen up opposing defenses. It’s OK to use the dink and dunk attack as the basis of your passing attack. But if opposing defenses know that they can play tight because nobody’s going to even try to get behind them or, if a receiver should slip past them, the quarterback isn’t even going to look at him.
--Figure out what to do with Adam Archuleta. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and hope for different results. While this adage applies to a number of areas on the team it’s no more glaring than it is with the free agent signee from the Rams. Time and time again he’s put into pass coverage situations that he just can’t handle. Archuleta gets a lot of criticism for it but that’s like being critical of me because I can’t jump over the top of the Washington Monument. He’s being asked to do things he just isn’t capable of doing. Williams needs to scheme around his weaknesses and emphasize his strengths.
--Play like you have nothing to lose. Go for it on fourth and one near midfield in the second quarter. Open the game with an onside kick. Come out in a no-huddle offense for the first series of the second half. Run a fake punt or field goal. These are all things that Gibbs did from time to time during his first run here that he have been left out of the plans entirely this time around. Don’t try all of this in the same game, mind you, but at least one or two such elements need to be present every week. For most of the season the team has either been tight or downtrodden. Whether the tactics work or not, taking chances and doing some things in an unorthodox manner gives the players a spark and shows that the coaches have confidence in them.
These are all relatively small changes, but changes such as these are the only ones that can me made at this point in time. In the NFL the difference between being competitive and being bad is slim. The nature of the game is that the result of a few relatively small changes can be much greater than the sum of the parts. A few 20-yard outs to Lloyd will fire up the offense and put the opposing defense back on its heels. The sight of a guy like McIntosh flying around the field can give a positive jolt of energy to players on both sides of the ball.
Will this be enough to save the Redskins season? Check back in this space in the next few days as a Special Bye Week Edition of the wildly popular Bold Predictions will break it down and see how the team will fare over the final nine games.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com