Now, they are at the very top, or bottom, almost anywhere you look.
Right now, the Redskins lead the NFL in rushing, something they have never done in their history. They’re never even been runner-up.
In a season when Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson may break the NFL season rushing record, the Redskins, thanks to Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III, actually have the league’s best ground attack; they may break the team record set in 1983 by an offense that included John Riggins and Joe Washington. It’ll be close.
The Redskins also lead the NFL in yards per play, both rushing and passing combined (6.2). Washington has never done that either. That 6.2 mark would be in the top 10 in NFL history, a first for a Mike Shanahan-coached team.
The Redskins also have thrown the fewest interceptions and have committed the fewest turnovers (13) in the league. At their current pace, they would have just 15 turnovers for the season, breaking the franchise record set by the Super Bowl-winning 1991 team.
On Sunday, the Redskins meet the worst turnover team, the Eagles (34). Is that just who these two teams are? Is some reversion to the mean due? This season, the Redskins lost both times they committed more than just one turnover.
Why are the Redskins so much better this year? Last season (Rex Grossman), the Redskins had 34 turnovers, second to last in the league. Who’s new this year? RGIII has just four interceptions and Morris has lost just two fumbles. And they touch the ball far more than anyone else.
By the pass-crazed standards of the current NFL, the Redskins seldom throw the ball, 30th out of 32 teams in attempts. Yet the Redskins are the second-most efficient team when they do pass. It hardly seems fair. They rush for more yardage than anyone (165 yards per game), but when they pass, their quarterback rating (103.6) barely trails Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers.
A clearly defined strength, if undermined successfully, quickly becomes vulnerability. Only one defense has held the Redskins to fewer than 122 yards rushing: Pittsburgh (86). But the resulting 15-point loss was also the only game Washington has lost by more than eight points.
Because of RGIII’s ability to run the option, scramble and bootleg, the Redskins have a varied offense. But like many college offenses that depend on plenty of option reads, the Redskins aren’t built for third and long and had been among the worst teams in the NFL in third-down conversions.
The past three weeks, they’ve been much better and are now 25th at a still poor 34.3 percent. Last week, with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, and the option attack on the shelf, the Redskins converted 46.7 percent.