The View From Across The Pond.
The reaction to the Redskins performance yesterday against the Panthers seems to highlight a growing number of fans that have had enough of the Shanahan regime. Outside the usual naysayers of which I am admittedly one, there was a growing number of HR regulars saying enough is enough, something needs to change. The loss to the Panthers in itself was not that surprising, but it is the manner in which we lost that I think hit people hard yesterday and has potentially turned the tide for many.
We all know there is a talent deficit on this team but it in my eyes the problems go way deeper than mere lack of talent. If you look at the loss yesterday, we beat ourselves as much as the Panthers did. This team is so lacking in the basic fundamentals it often beggars belief. I did not actually know it, but when they announced yesterday during the broadcast that we were the most penalised team in the NFL, I found myself distinctly unsurprised. You cannot coach talent but you can coach the players into being disciplined and fundamentally sound. However this is clearly not happening and we are seeing the same mistakes week in and week out.
If you think back to last week against Pittsburgh, on our opening scoring drive we actually punched the ball into the end zone three times, twice having the points taken off the board by penalty before Santana Moss finally scored. Step forward to yesterday and the exact same thing happened. On our TD drive in the fourth quarter we had TD’s nullified twice by penalty. Yet another holding call was followed by an illegal formation penalty where neither Hankerson nor Morgan lined correctly despite being five yards apart and looking at one another. Can we really not get our players to line up in the correct spot?
There is no way that this kind of scenario should happen twice in a season, let alone consecutive weeks. That sequence of plays cost us 30 seconds and a timeout. We would have been able to get the ball back with around 1:30 seconds on the clock instead of the 17 seconds we did have for the final drive. Who knows what would have happened, but 1.30 can be a long time with a QB like RG3. Oh yeah, we would also have been spared that last Brandon Banks play, how embarrassing was it for you seeing Banks flounder around for 10 seconds. This season we have been penalised on Offense 75 times for 649 yards, you simply cannot win like that.
Lack of fundamentals is clearly highlighted in the play of individuals. Let’s take two players as an example Leonard Hankerson and Josh Wilson. Once again we went deep to Hankerson yesterday and at first glance it seems RG3 misses him by a step, but I noticed yesterday and watched it back today to confirm, that as he as done a number of times this season Hankerson hesitates for a crucial step in his route. Someone has got to get in his ear and work on his route running with him. It was clear that the pattern he ran was the one he assigned but as he turns for the posts he slows up for one step until he realises the pass is coming to him. He just does not seem to track the ball at all well when it is in the air. I would have liked to see him at least lay out for the ball, but had he just run without hesitation he could have scored.
As for Josh Wilson well what can I say but turn your damn head around. He gave up a TD and a PI penalty on identical plays and neither time did he get his head around to see where the ball was. The ref will hit you with a penalty everytime if you don’t turn back to the ball, so why is this not built into the players basic technique. It just makes me question what kind of coaching set up do the Redskins have. Scheme is only half of it, the players will not thrive in any scheme if they cannot do the basics well.
If you ally this with the playcalling exploits of Kyle Shanahan then the result is always going to be more losees than wins. Witness our second drive yesterday where we are 1st and goal and start with a decent 5 yard pick up by Alfred Morris that put us at the 2 yard line. Next play called was exactly the same stretch run left which Carolina was waiting for. Next play WR screen to Brandon Banks for no gain and finally, a fourth down bootleg by RG3 highlighted by some of the very worst blocking you will ever see. The playcalling was atrocious.
My first thought was why not even a single shot into the endzone? Why can’t we call a tight formation and play action pass like Pittsburgh did twice against us last week? Alternatively, can we not put a ball up for grabs for the receiver to go up and get a la Steve Smith yesterday?
Second thought why call the same running play twice in a row? For instance why not call a quick draw such as the TD Royster scored? Why not run out of the I formation behind Darrell Young and try and pound it in? It just lacks imagination.
Third thought, why no option to pass on the bootleg by RG3? There was no pass route even called, not even the illusion of a pass, just straight bootleg. How easy do you want to make it for the opposition? Instead of turning Josh Morgan into block, have him chip and then break into space in the back of the endzone? If he is covered fine but at least have the option in there.
These were by no means the only head scratching plays yesterday and they have been a recurring nightmare for the past two and a half seasons. As was pointed out too me yesterday, why do we not roll out our most mobile QB in years a la John Elway? If the pocket is liable to break down lets move it and buy our QB time. I am sick of the WR screens personally, I am tired of the option as well. The truth is the NFL has adjusted to this offense and it has worked out how to contain the threat RG3 poses, we need to add more wrinkles.
It comes down to this for me. If we were a better coached both on game day and during the week we could all point to an improvement that has happened under Mike Shanahan, but we cannot. Personally if I saw this was a fundamentally sound team then I would have faith that we would be pointing in the right direction and any new player that comes in will be in a position to thrive. However all we are seeing is multitude penalties, mental lapses, poor fundamentals and a team regressing before our very eyes. The talent deficit does not help that is for sure and injuries merely exacerbate talent issues but if you send 53 men out each Sunday, we have the right to expect a sound football team that can maximise whatever talent it has and compete. If you do that this team may be in a better position right now.