ARLINGTON, Tex. — The show on offense was so impressive here last season, you sensed something big was beginning for the Washington Redskins. They still had lots of heavy lifting ahead of them, but in 2012 the Redskins got rolling during a road victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
In a familiar story this season, they failed to do enough on offense and were awful on special teams. Despite ongoing shuffling in the secondary, the Redskins’ defense played well at times against Tony Romo but not well enough.
For the Redskins, last season’s victory at AT&T Stadium — in which Robert Griffin III threw four touchdown passes — was their second in a season-closing, seven-game winning streak that propelled them to the NFC East title. At this point this season, the Redskins don’t appear capable of stringing together consecutive effective performances, let alone winning back-to-back games.
The Redskins entered their bye week with major issues on special teams. They weren’t resolved over the break. Let’s start there.
Poor kick coverage
Special teams coordinator Keith Burns is dealing with a mess. From Week 1, the players on the kickoff and punt coverage teams have taken poor angles in pursuit.
The result has been gaping holes for opposing returners, some of whom have failed to exploit the mistakes.
On Sunday night, Cowboys returner Dwayne Harris connected for two home runs. Harris had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter and a 90-yard kickoff return in the third quarter that set up a Tony Romo touchdown pass. On both returns, Harris had huge running lanes.
Burns has to get back to basics with the coverage teams.
He also has to keep working on the Redskins’ ineffective return game.
Rookie Chris Thompson, who was inactive Sunday night, apparently has lost his spot handling punt returns in addition to being replaced on kickoff returns. Wideout Josh Morgan filled both jobs against Dallas, and it’s doubtful the Redskins will turn back to the shaky Thompson.
Although Thompson is one of the fastest players on the team, his poor judgment on returns — he fielded balls he should have let bounce, let balls bounce he should have fielded, failed to follow blockers — was a source of frustration for the coaching staff. Despite maintaining they were committed to Thompson, the Redskins used the bye week to move in a different direction.
Pierre Garcon is the Redskins’ No. 1 wideout, and Leonard Hankerson has become a bigger part of the offense in his third season. Offensive play-caller Kyle Shanahan will monitor Morgan’s workload on offense while he adjusts to his additional duties on special teams.
The Redskins would rather have Richard Crawford as their primary returner. Unfortunately for them, Crawford suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason, and Thompson was their best choice to replace him. They’ll have to hope that the third man up eases their pain.