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Think Outside the Box: How to Save the Season

Think Outside the Box: How to Save the Season

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

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Need to Know: Redskins stay in house for both coordinator jobs

Need to Know: Redskins stay in house for both coordinator jobs

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 23, 37 days before the NFL franchise tag deadline.

Timeline

Days until:

NFL free agency starts 45
—NFL Draft 94
First Sunday of 2017 season 230

Staying in house

­There are reasons to dislike the hire of Greg Manusky as defensive coordinator but the notion that he got the job because he is buddies with Jay Gruden really doesn’t hold water. They had no connection prior to last year and with them working on opposite sides of the ball they didn’t work side by side. I’ve heard the two have a friendly relationship but it’s not like he’s out of the Tampa Bay Yacht Club or anything.

I know that everyone is obsessed with yardage rankings, which is a pretty weak indicator of the quality of a defense. Since you want to know, in Manusky’s nine seasons as a defensive coordinator his defenses have finished ranked 18th in yards allowed on average. In reality, Football Outsiders’  DVOA is a more accurate measure of the effectiveness of a defense since it takes the strength of the opponents into account. There isn’t much difference there, Manusky’s average DVOA ranking was about 17. In other words, he’s run middle of the pack defenses. Sure, you'd like them to do better but having a defense that's around average would represent an improvement over most of the last seven seasons.

How has his talent been? Three different players have been first-team All-Pro selections. LB Patrick Willis made it three times, S Eric Weddle and DE Robert Mathias once each. Players under him made the Pro Bowl 13 times with Willis (3), Mathis (2), and DE Justin Smith (2) making it more than once. His defenses had three Pro Bowlers on one occasion when LB D’Qwell Jackson, CB Vonta Davia, and S Mike Adams all made it. That year the Colts defense was ranked 11th in yards and 13th in DVOA.

It remains to be seen how much the Redskins will change schematically. Manusky has run both 4-3 fronts and 3-4’s so the Redskins could make a switch. Even if they go with a 3-4 base the unit is likely to be more aggressive than it was under Joe Barry. Some fans seem to be worried that promoting an assistant coach means that thinks will be done the same. Let me ask you this: If your boss was fired for not getting the job done and you were promoted into his position, would you do things the same way he did? I didn’t think so.

­There will be continuity on the offensive side of the ball as Matt Cavanaugh is going to get moved into the offensive coordinator job. It’s Gruden’s offense anyway so there would not have been much change even if they had brought someone in from the outside. It seems likely that Gruden will call the plays, although we won’t know for sure for a while. The only immediate question on that side of the ball is if Wes Phillips will stay on as the tight ends coach or if he will follow Sean McVay to Los Angeles. That should be resolved over the next several days.

Tandler on Twitter

This was in response to a tweet saying that Kyle Shanahan is likely to get roster and personnel control when he becomes the head coac of the 49ers.

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Kirk Cousins had his eye on Kyle Shanahan's offense, but is there more to it?

Kirk Cousins had his eye on Kyle Shanahan's offense, but is there more to it?

Of course, Kirk Cousins is disappointed the Redskins didn’t make the playoffs, but among the various things he’s done in the offseason, one of them is a little curious.

Sunday, Cousins wasn’t just watching the Falcons dominate the Packers, 44-21, in the NFC Championship Game. He sent out a picture on Instagram from the stands of the Georgia Dome.

“Watching two of the best in the world do what they do & taking notes to make it to this game next year -score a lot of points!” Cousins wrote.

But — especially with rumors that Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be offered the head coaching position with the 49ers — is there more to this post than the Redskins’ quarterback simply watching the game?

Shanahan was the Redskins’ offensive coordinator from 2010-2013 and was reportedly “integral” in the team selecting Cousins in the 2012 NFL Draft.

So if Shanahan makes the move out to San Francisco and if the Redskins don’t put a franchise tag on Cousins, could the pair be reunited?

It’s possible, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, who said, “don’t be surprised if the 49ers make a run at Kirk Cousins if the Redskins do not make him their exclusive franchise player.”

There’s a lot of if’s involved for that to happen, but it’s possible. It’s also possible Cousins was just enjoying the NFC Championship Game and decided to Instagram about it. 

MORE REDSKINS: Why Matt Cavanaugh makes sense for Washington