Here we are again, sifting through the wreckage following another Redskins loss.
Faced with a do-or-die situation on Sunday, Mike Shanahan’s team appeared as if it had rolled over as the fourth quarter began with Washington down 24-0. But the Redskins woke up and put up a fight. They just ran out of time, again.
Now, Washington owns a 3-7 record and appears to have no shot at the playoffs.
Up next is another tough opponent in the San Francisco 49ers coming to town next Monday.
But first, here are five observations from Sunday’s loss.
1. Too many problems – Anyone who was previously dreaming of another heroic march toward the postseason can now abandon all hope. Six games remain, but the Redskins have virtually no shot at pulling off such a comeback. It’s clear there are too many deficiencies on this roster. The Eagles had a very good idea of how the Redskins were going to attack them on both sides of the ball, and they had the answers. It’s not unheard of for teams to know what’s coming. Every team’s coaches spend countless hours breaking down tape and preparing their players for those plays. The difference between good teams and bad teams is those contenders still go out and execute the plays. The Redskins, meanwhile, have a young quarterback whose development was stunted by his lack of an offseason. They don’t have enough players capable of consistently getting open. The offense went 0 for 2 in the red zone and had two crushing turnovers. The offensive and defensive lines appear to have lost their nastiness and ability to impose their will on foes. The pass-rushers can’t get home frequently enough. Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan either speed-rush or bull-rush, and many times, that’s not enough to make an impact. The secondary didn’t give up a lot of deep throws (Philly had one big gain on a mismatch that saw Kerrigan on McCoy), but the defense as a whole couldn’t tackle and, as a result, plays that should’ve been short gains went for long catch-and-run pickups. The Eagles had gains of 23, 24, 26, 19 and 42 yards on plays that Nick Foles complete short passes and let his playmakers do the rest. Players insist the problems that crop up every week are not the same, but that each week it’s something different. But no one thing in particular hindering them. The Redskins must continue to fight, but they are starting to look like a team in need of a major overhaul rather than one that’s close and only a few fixes away.
2. Disconnect somewhere – Every player I talked to last night said they find their ongoing inability to win games perplexing because they enter contests feeling well-prepared and confident. They also say they have had great, spirited practices that should have primed them for success. Mike Shanahan said his team practiced extremely well and they just have to keep working hard. However, for whatever reason, these great practice efforts are not translating into games. The old saying of “you play how you practice,” is not holding true. Now, is this a sign of inadequate in-week coaching and preparation? Is it an indication that opponents find Washington’s schemes predictable and then Washington’s coaches don’t have the ability to adjust? Or, is it a sign that the Redskins lack the talent to contend? If you’re inferior in more areas than not, will that hard work leave you coming up short more times than not? Or, is it a mental fortitude issue? The Redskins knew good and well what was at stake and what they had to do to save their season. But the first three quarters had no resemblance of a performance by a team with high motivation and sense of urgency. You can’t wait until the fourth quarter to turn it on. This isn’t the NBA. Something, or some things are not clicking. The desire is certainly there. The hurt, frustration and disappointment is written on many players’ faces and evident in their body language following games. But something’s missing.
3. Griffin’s to-do list – Robert Griffin III’s offseason mission is clear. He must work to regain his playmaker’s edge, and much of that will hinge on his ability to become a more effective passer. He has the arm strength and can make short throws, intermediate throws and long passes. But things are off in his game, and his coverage reading skills are less than desirable. We saw again against the Eagles that when defenders take away Griffin’s first options, he struggles. Defenses have the ability to make him second-guess what he sees. And with the line that he has in front of him, a split second is all a defense needs to derail Griffin and his offense. Philadelphia dropped their linebackers into coverage frequently, crowding the field and denying Griffin clean looks at holes in the coverage. Many times, he wasn’t able to find small windows and pick the defense apart. There were times that he tried to extend plays with his legs, but his touch and accuracy were off. These are little details that don’t seem very big, but he will spend the offseason honing so he can return to making the Redskins’ offense a well-oiled machine. In the second half, whether it was a sense of urgency, or a letup in the defense, Griffin did better. He started making throws on the run and scanning the field more quickly and putting the ball into holes in the secondary or hitting his checkdowns. That’s often what you have to do as a quarterback. If the downfield read is taken away, you must quickly go to the checkdown and dink and dunk your way downfield. Last season, defenses played defenders closer to the line so Griffin had more downfield options. Now teams are challenging him to read defenses. He’s obviously going to try to win games. But for the next six games and throughout the offseason, Griffin’s focus should center on improving at quickly recognizing what the defense is giving to him and making smart decisions while throwing with pin-point accuracy.
4. Injury bug coming? – Thus far, the Redskins have been very fortunate to avoid major injury. Keenan Robinson, Phillip Thomas, Chris Thompson and Bryan Kehl all were lost for the season, but none were starters. But the Redskins face the possibility of losing three key contributors in Leonard Hankerson, Stephen Bowen (both starters) and E.J. Biggers (the secondary’s sixth man so to speak), who all are scheduled to have MRI exams conducted on injured knees today. Meanwhile, tight end Jordan Reed has a concussion and his status is uncertain this early in the week. At this point, the Redskins need every contributor they have as they try to snap this losing streak and finish the season on a positive note. But they could be forced to make do without them. Then what? Other players will be pressed into duty, but there don’t appear to be any difference-makers among the ranks of the backups.
5. Gut check time – The question is no longer “Can they contend?” It’s now “Can they at least finish with some respectability?” The team has shown it has a never-quit mentality. Numerous times now we’ve seen the Redskins claw their way back from large deficits. But now they have three losses in the division and have nothing but pride to play for as they face teams with much at stake – such as San Francisco, Kansas City and Dallas – how will the mental fortitude of the Redskins players match up? Every player I spoke to last night said they will remain united and they will continue to fight as if they’re still in the mix. We’ll see if they’re capable of doing that, or if guys start to subconsciously check out down the stretch.
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.
More on the Redskins & NFL: