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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’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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

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