Redskins Five Keys to Improving in 2015
The Washington Redskins are coming off of two horrible seasons in which the team went a combined 7-25. There are multiple things that the team will be working to improve this summer. We decided to list the things below we view are the Redskins five keys to improving in 2015. If the team can improve on all five of these 2015 could be a great season.
1) The offensive line MUST improve. No matter how good your play-book or your QB is, you have to have protection in the trenches for anything to work. Mike Shanahan chose to take the route of patching together what pieces he could get to fit his scheme. Problem is those players don’t fit Gruden’s scheme, so the Redskins were left with an o-line last year that was out-of-place.
This offseason the team signed Offensive Line Coach Bill Callahan away from the Dallas Cowboys in an effort to fix the issues the team has along the line of scrimmage. Callahan is working this offseason on shifting the line towards a power rushing attack. The team also draft Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff, Alabama guard Arie Kouandjio and South Florida’s Austin Reiter at center.
At the end of last season, it was clear the Redskins needed changes along the line, and the team decided not to re-sign Tyler Polumbus and also released veteran guard Chris Chester, saving the team $4 million in much need cap space. Those two roster moves will allow the team to have a completely new right side of the offensive line in 2015. The early favorites to start are 2014 draftee Spencer Long at right guard and Scherff at right tackle. It’s a bold move to start two unproven linemen in the same season, but it’s an improvement for the Redskins.
2) Jay Gruden has to learn to be more flexible with his play-calling. Too many times in 2014 the Redskins scrapped the running game in favor of going deep. That type of play-calling, coupled with a horrible secondary and terrible special teams, is the reason why the Redskins were outscored by eight points a game last year. Gruden may, in fact, be a brilliant play-caller, but to be a successful head coach in the NFL you must learn to incorporate that ability with the talent you have.
The NFL is a ‘sub-package’ league now. Which means things are always changing and no one uses one particular offensive or defensive set anymore, they mix and match. Gruden must learn to script his playbook accordingly or risk failing, despite having a pretty talented offensive roster.
3) Robert Griffin III MUST stay healthy. Many of Griffin’s critics believe he will never regain his form from 2012. Others believe once the team fixes the offensive line that he will excel again. Whichever side of the discussion you stand on everyone can agree that in order for the Redskins to move forward, Griffin must stay healthy. The team gave up a king’s ransom to draft RGIII and has shown that they intend on further developing the former rookie of the year quarterback. Something that was easy to see this offseason when the team decided to tender Griffin’s last year of his contract at over $16 million. That deal comes with strings that say Washington can release him before the deadline next season and owe him nothing.
Fact is Griffin is never going to change completely as a player. He’s always going to have that drive inside of him that makes him press for the extra yard. That’s why so many love him. Those that question Griffin wish he would cation himself more to avoid injury. In Griffin’s defense, he does appear to be taking fewer chances the last two seasons. It should be pointed out that his freak injury last season came on a roll-out pass-play and wasn’t caused by Griffin running wildly with the ball. If Robert can stay healthy, he certainly has the athletic ability and smarts to take the next step in the NFL.
4) The defense MUST get more sacks and turnovers. This has been one of the Redskins five keys to improving for multiple years. It does appear that the team has taken steps towards improving their pass rush from a roster standpoint. Signing defensive lineman Stephen Paea, Ricky-Jean Francois and Terrance ‘Pot-Roast’ Knighton greatly improved the defensive trenches.
The team lost often injured linebacker Brian Orakpo to free agency. To replace Orakpo, they drafted LB’s Preston Smith from Mississippi State and Martrell Spaight from Arkansas. Smith and Trent Murphy are expected to battle it out in training camp for the starting linebacker spot opposite of Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan is looking to improve on his best season as a pro in which he recorded 13 1/2 sacks and burst onto the scene as one of the NFL’s brightest defensive stars.
The last three years under Jim Haslett the Redskins defense struggled in the secondary. Many believe those struggles are a direct result of simply not getting enough sacks and turnovers. It’s been long said that a strong front seven can make up for or improve a weak back four. The Redskins are hoping they don’t have to put that piece of philosophy to the test as they added pieces on the back-end that should improve the team.
Dashon Goldston, Duke Ihenacho, and Jeron Johnson will head into camp as the three to keep an eye on regarding who will start at safety. The addition of Chris Culliver gives the Redskins a known turnover creator to go along with Bashaud Breeland, David Amerson and DeAngelo Hall at corner.
5) The special teams MUST be better than ranked in the lower third of the NFL. The Redskins have had an embarrassing run in terms of special teams play that stretches back nearly as far as can be remembered. They haven’t experienced a return for a touchdown since Brandon Banks in 2010. The team routinely finds themselves at or near the bottom of offensive and defensive starting field position average. Horrible starting position on both sides of the ball is the starting point for failed drives and the inability to stop the opponent from scoring. It’s the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot before trying anything else. Mix-in the team’s poor kick-off averages and it shouldn’t be a mystery as to why this is listed as one of the Redskins five keys to improving.
With the additions the team made this offseason in free-agency and the draft, the Redskins special teams unit should take major steps forward.