If they weren’t there already, the Washington Redskins have reached the point of desperation.
A win on Sunday against the 6-1 San Francisco 49ers would give the team a huge lift and keep it from sliding too far out of contention. A loss, however, would drop Coach Mike Shanahan’s team to 3-5 and put the Redskins in danger of sliding into last place in the NFC East.
The Redskins get back to work today, and as they do, uncertainty abounds. Here are five questions that loom over the Redskins as they prepare for the San Francisco 49ers.
1.) Can Beck bounce back?
After turning in a pretty solid effort in his first start, Beck took steps backwards against Buffalo. True, the offensive line had a woeful outing, but Beck held onto the ball way too long. At other times, when he should have thrown the ball away, he tried to run, even though he had defenders closing in all around him. Beck also tried to force some throws that definitely were risky. Kyle Shanahan needs to call more quick-hitters to get the ball out of Beck’s hands more quickly and help his quarterback get into a rhythm. Beck needs to get this offense moving, or Mike Shanahan could be tempted to go back to Grossman. Yes, Rex gives the ball away to the other team from time to time, but he can move the offense.
2.) Changes on the offensive line?
The Redskins need Trent Williams back in action ASAP. Williams still has a lot of improving to do, but he’s definitely a better option than Sean Locklear, who is a natural right tackle. It might be time to move Will Montgomery back to center and give rookie Maurice Hurt a shot at left guard. At least the Redskins would have four of their original starters if Williams is back in the game.
3.) Will playmakers emerge?
Everybody knows the Redskins are going to Fred Davis, and it’s time for someone else to step up. Where is Anthony Armstrong? He had a nice first year, when he not only used to stretch the field but also started making plays on a variety of routes. But he hasn’t made an impact so far this season. He was frustrated after his catchless outing on Sunday. Maybe he can channel that frustration into some production. It’s hard to tell, but his opportunities also seem to have decreased this year. Leonard Hankerson needs to make some strides, as does Niles Paul. You could always depend on Santana Moss to get open as Kyle Shanahan moved him all over the field. There’s no go-to guy without him. Now you see why Rex Grossman called him a quarterback’s best friend.
4.) Can they shore up the run defense?
Frank Gore is coming, so the Redskins had better get ready. The seventh-year pro averages 4.8 yards a carry and has rushed for 127, 125, 141 and 134 yards, respectively, in his last four games. Teams like to spread the Redskins out so Washington will go to nickel packages that leave them thinner up front and less able to execute. But the problem doesn’t seem to be schematic. It’s execution. Linebackers aren’t consistently filling gaps or beating blocks. Other times a defender is in position to make a play, but poor tackling allows the opponent to spin away and keep on rolling for big gains. If Gore gets going, it’ll be another long day for the Redskins.
5.) Does Tashard Choice have anything to offer?
Ryan Torain and Roy Helu now have some company in Tashard Choice, whom Washington claimed off waivers Monday. The former Cowboy and fourth-year pro has always been a complementary back, never starting more than three games in a season (2008). For his career, he has averaged only 4.6 carries a game. Dallas parted ways with him, however, and there’s some question about his health. He has been limited by shoulder and hamstring injuries this season.