Their offense consists of: a gifted young quarterback struggling to find his way after leading his team to the playoffs in an electric season; a bruising running back who is effective when given the opportunity to run, but often finds himself without key touches; a wide receiving corps composed of one impact player and a bunch of spare parts; and a gifted tight end who needs to stay healthy.
One might think this is referring to the Washington Redskins, but it could also easily be talking about their Monday night opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, who have struggled to find an offensive identity after making the Super Bowl last year.
San Francisco (6-4) has a similar arsenal of weapons to the Redskins (3-7) with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, running back Frank Gore, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis. The 49ers also have a desire to run the read-option scheme, but the results have been disastrous.
The 49ers are 29th in the NFL in total offense and last in passing offense, which has to sound like sweet music to the Redskins’ beleaguered defense. Still, with their intimate knowledge of what Robert Griffin III can do, Washington’s defenders are wary of Kaepernick.
“He’s one of those new-age quarterbacks,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “We’ll have to be aware of him and his abilities to make plays, first when they call run plays for him and the off-schedule plays when he just decides to run on his own. You have to be aware of that.”
The Redskins are hoping their experience running the read option will pay dividends on the defensive side of the ball.
“Well, they run a lot of similar things that our offense runs so a lot of it’s the same, so our guys have an idea going into the game,” Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “There will be some things that will be different, obviously, but the motions in the backfield, the shift boots and all that comes into play.”
While the 49ers have struggled passing the ball, Gore remains an effective backfield threat, ranking seventh in the NFL with 748 yards. He has eight runs of 20 yards or more, one fewer than Washington’s Alfred Morris, with whom he shares a similar running style.
“Frank’s the kind of guy who takes the ball downhill,” Haslett said. “He’s going to run you over. He’s not looking to miss, you know, juke you and all that stuff.”
Will the Redskins’ inherent knowledge of the 49ers’ system make a huge difference? Maybe not, but Washington will take any advantage it can get.
“It’s just about making plays at the right times to win football games,” defensive end Kedric Golston said.
Three questions with Redskins OL Tyler Polumbus
1. Are you frustrated to be 3-7 with the pieces on this team?
I don’t think anyone would have thought we would have been in this position when the year started, but we’re here now, and we have to deal with it, dig ourselves out of a hole and start winning some football games.
2. In falling behind and being forced to pass, how does that change the lineman’s mentality?
It’s not ideal for an offensive lineman to be in a situation where the whole stadium and the whole world knows you’re going to have to pass the ball 25 times to get back into the game, but that’s what the cards have dealt us a few times this year. We get paid to do our job and do whatever’s called.
3. What are your Thanksgiving plans?
We’ll have some family coming into town and my wife will cook up a meal. No major plans other than hanging with the family. I’ll probably make a clean break from football and enjoy the family.