In their first two seasons under Shanahan, the Redskins averaged just 18.5 points a game. They have lacked an elite-level or even average quarterback. But when evaluating his talent, Shanahan knew that another big reason for the struggles has been a lack of speed.
The Redskins had sure-handed pass-catchers, but they either struggled to get open or were unable to consistently gain yards after the catch.
With Santana Moss slowed by injury last season, Jabar Gaffney became Washington’s leading receiver with 68 catches for 947 yards. But only 184 of those yards (2.7 yards per game) came after receptions. Moss did better, averaging 4.1 yards after the catch, but lacked the same burst that he has had in years past.
The New England Patriots’ Wes Welker, who had more total yards after the catch than any other wideout in 2011, gained an average of six yards after each reception. New Orleans running back Darren Sproles averaged eight.
The Redskins’ yards-after-catch deficit factored into their decision to make their strongest offseason push since Shanahan arrived to improve the overall speed of the offense.
“It was an emphasis since the first day I got here. Sometimes it takes a little longer to get those players, but you have to have speed,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got to have playmakers at all different positions.”
The Redskins now have a wide receiver unit that features newcomers Garcon, Josh Morgan and Aldrick Robinson to go with a resurgent Moss and a healthy Brandon Banks, who was slowed by a knee injury last year. The tight end position includes Fred Davis, who can use his quickness to create mismatches with linebackers, and new addition Niles Paul. At running back, the Redskins hope to take advantage of Roy Helu Jr.’s quickness as a receiver out of the backfield on screens and when he goes in motion to line up as a wideout.
The hope is that the upgrade in speed cures what has been nearly two decades of offensive struggles. Since the 1991 season, when Joe Gibbs’s Super Bowl-winning offense ranked first in the NFL, the Redskins have cracked the top 10 in scoring only twice (eighth in 1996, second in 1999).
And since that 1999 season, when Washington averaged 27.6 points a game, the Redskins have ranked in the top half of the league in scoring only once (13th in 2005). In the other 11 seasons since, the Redskins have ranked an average 23rd in scoring.