Well, it’s a wrap. The Washington Redskins’ 2011 season is in the books, and it ended on a sour note as Mike Shanahan & Co. suffered their most lopsided loss of the year.
The loss didn’t reveal anything new, but the Redskins’ problems were further magnified.
Redskins players today are cleaning out their lockers, and this week coaches will begin conducting evaluations on a second consecutive disappointing season.
In the coming days and weeks, the focus will turn toward the draft, but first, here’s a look at Washington’s final outing of the season:
1. The same old mistakes – Interception on an ill-advised throw, dropped balls, an inability to control emotions, an inability to block on the field goal unit. ... We’ve seen them all before, and until the Redskins can correct these problems, they’ll never get better. Mike Shanahan didn’t want to criticize Rex Grossman, who did make some great throws while hanging tough in the pocket and taking some big hits from the defense, but Grossman once again hurt his team by trying too hard to make a play instead of just throwing the ball away. True, it was a fluke that the ball bounced off a cornerback’s helmet and into a safety’s hands, but Anthony Armstrong was covered by two players. He had a step, but Grossman underthrew the pass.
Santana Moss had a big drop on a post route that would’ve given Washington a first-quarter touchdown, then he drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed Washington from the Eagles’ 4-yard line back to the 19. That proved just as costly an error, but is less excusable because Moss is a veteran and knows he has to keep his cool.
And the Redskins couldn’t make it through the final game without adding a chapter to the most perplexing story line of the season – blocked field goals. The Eagles obviously did their homework, because they overloaded and went right at the right guard position, where teams have been able to break through off and on this season, and swatted down another Graham Gano field goal attempt. That’s five blocked field goals and one blocked extra point attempt. Mike Shanahan was asked if he’d ever seen one team suffer five blocks in a season. He was speechless for a second, and then said, “I’ve never seen three.” The Redskins had injuries to their linemen this season, but other teams suffer injuries, too. To see this problem pop up again and again was mind-blowing.
2. Rough year for Moss – Speaking of Moss, for the first time in seven seasons, he didn’t lead Washington in receiving. This season, he offered very few highlights, and his impact was minimal. Moss got off to a solid start, then missed four weeks with a broken hand and never returned to form and may have regressed as the season played out. His 46 catches and 584 receiving yards both rank as second-lowest for his career. Was it injury? Age? Moss always could be counted on to make his presence felt . But this season he didn’t record a single 100-yard game. He also seems to lack that burst of speed and explosiveness. At times, he has been irrelevant. Moss, whom Washington re-signed in July to a three-year deal, can still help the Redskins, but his days as a top wideout appear to have ended.
3. Playmakers needed - Moss’s struggles also show us that Washington has to go out and get more playmakers on offense. There are no game-changers on this unit. There are no home run hitters. How sad is it that Roy Helu’s 47-yard catch and run represented the first time a Redskin had caught a pass outside the 10 and run in for a score? Jabar Gaffney is steady and reliable. Evan Royster and Helu both showed promise, and Fred Davis can have an impact. But none of them has shown the ability to break a game open. Most times, they take what’s there. Washington must add a player or two who imposes his will on other teams. That type of clutch performers win games.
4.Tired defense - For the fourth time in the last five games, the Redskins defense gave up 30 or more points. Asked about the trend, linebacker London Fletcher said a number of factors – and not all of them defensive – had to do with the letdown. “The game is played in three phases,” Fletcher said. “I think it’s a collection of everything. Any time you’re giving up points, it falls on offense, defense, special teams. Collection of everything, not taking advantage of opportunities scoring the ball, playing good field position and the kicking game, and defensively, giving up plays on third downs, not stopping the run.” Fletcher is never one to make excuses. But he couldn’t hide the frustration over the lack of balance on this team, and how it has had a wearing effect on the defense. Fletcher and his teammates certainly haven’t been perfect. That unit needs to generate more takeaways. But it’s harder to get those stops on third down, and make the plays needed to stop an opponent, when you’re wearing down because the offense can’t provide a breather.
5.Orakpo’s strong outing – The third-year pro has become a more complete player this season by getting better against the run and in pass coverage, but as noted before, he allows teams to neutralize him with double-teams much too often. He needs to find ways to overcome the extra attention he receives. Orakpo says fixing this ranks as his top priority for the offseason. The first half of Sunday’s game represented a foreshadowing of what Orakpo is capable of. He shed blocks, beat double-teams, got two sacks, drew holding calls, made stops against the run, and forced a fumble. It may have been one of Orakpo’s best games, but he was injured late in the second quarter and couldn’t play in the second half. Still, that is the type of player that Jim Haslett wants to see on a weekly basis. The defensive coordinator moved Orakpo all over the line, setting him up at his usual right edge, lining him up on the left edge, even sending him in from the middle at times. For the Redskins’ defense to take another step forward, Orakpomuch reach an elite level--not just a week here and there, but every week.