Halfway through the 2011 football season, the Washington Redskins are in a familiar place. The Redskins are in last place in the NFC East, and the playoffs are nothing but a blurry mirage to the team. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered at this point of the season. What lead the Redskins to a 3-5 start? Can Mike Shanahan blame his team being in last place due to injuries? Do the Washington Redskins lack personnel? Is the play calling predictable on the offensive side of the ball? Or is this team flat-out terrible?
Let’s start with the injury bug that has bitten this team this year. The Washington Redskins have lost two starters on offense for the rest of the season. TE Chris Cooley and guard Corey Lichtenstager have been placed on injured reserved. For Cooley this is his second time on IR in the last three years. The Redskins lost two contributing starters on the o-line halfway through the season. In week 5 Korey Lichtenstager was placed on IR the Monday following a loss to division rival Philadelphia. LT Trent Williams missed two of the eight games Washington has played this year. One of the games Williams missed was against Buffalo; the O-line gave up a record 10 sacks to one of the worse Defensive lines in football. The Redskins were also hit with injuries at WR. Santana Moss and slot WR Anthony Armstrong have missed games through the halfway mark. The Redskins have been affected by the bug without a top WR by ranking 16th in passing in the NFL. On the defensive side of the ball the Redskins lost their 2nd round draft pick Jarvis Jenkins late in the pre-season, which proved to be a big loss in their front seven. Washington currently ranks 20th against the run in the NFL, and in big games the Skins have not been able to keep the defensive ground game in check. It is apparent the Redskins have been hit with injuries, but this team cannot use it as an excuse. Every year in the NFL good teams overcome injuries to starters. Last year’s Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers faced adversity with 15 players placed on injured reserved. In early February the Packers still managed to hold up the Lombardi trophy. The Packers were able to overcome their adversity by having depth at many positions. Depth is a word that has been used loosely for the Washington Redskins over the last 10 years. In Shanahan’s second year coaching, you cannot put all of the blame on him for having lack of depth. Whether Shanahan admits it or not, the Redskins are in a rebuilding state of what Vinny and Danny created over the years. So, instead of using injuries as an excuse for the Skins 3-5 start, we will call it “lack of depth”.
Mike Shanahan has received a lot of criticism for having his son as the Offensive Coordinator. Over the last 24 games Kyle Shanahan has called plays for this offense, the Redskins have managed to score over 30 points in 1 game, and only 7 games have they managed to score more than 21. Unless you have a great defense playing behind you, you won’t win many games putting up those types of numbers. The Redskins are not playing to their strengths. A blind man can see this team is not built with great wide receivers, or a great pass blocking offensive line, so why not run the ball? Kyle Shanahan has called 297 passing plays, and only 186 running plays. This team is not built to throw like Saints, Steelers, Patriots, and Packers do on a weekly basis. Not only do the Skins not have a top WR to throw to every week, they also do not have quarterback to deliver the ball. The excuse of having to throw early in the game because the team is down shows lack of preparation, and patience in your own play calling. The Redskins have a decent back when used in Ryan Torrain. Roy Helu is also showing that he belongs in the league with his flashes on running downs. If passing the ball has gotten you nowhere in 24 games of play calling here in Washington, a simple plan B of running the ball might not be a bad idea.
In late April Mike Shanahan decided he would not draft a quarterback. This decision shocked a lot of NFL experts, and Redskins fans with the decision to go into the 2011 season with Rex Grossman and Jon Beck as the potential starters. Shanahan is now 0 for 3 on quarterback decisions here in Washington. The ridiculous trade for McNabb last season proved to be the worst move Shanahan has made in D.C. Not only did the Redskins give away a 2nd round pick in the draft, but they also put the offense in reverse for another year. In the offseason John Beck began to talk to the media about how he wanted to be the starter of the team. What back-up doesn’t want to be the starter? I don’t blame John Beck for making copies of the playbook, and taking the initiative of holding player only practices in the off-season, but after 13 quarters it’s proven he does not belong in the league. Beck locks in on one WR every pass play, and looks apprehensive of taking chances down the field. Rex Grossman on the other hand is not much better than Beck, but he was serviceable under center. Before Grossman was pulled, he led the Redskins to a 3-1 start. After four interceptions against the Eagles in week 5 Shanahan decided to give Beck a shot. That decision has blown up in his face. Since pulling Grossman after week 5 the Redskins have been on a down spiral. The team has lost three straight games since pulling Grossman. The Redskins have managed to score only three touchdowns in four games since pulling Grossman. Every quarterback has a bad game. Nine times out of ten that quarterback is usually given a chance to redeem himself. With pressure from the fans, and the media pushing for Beck to get a shot, Rex has not seen the field since the loss to Philly. Players on offense gave Grossman vocal support in the media. They appreciated Rex taking chances to try to win games, even when some of the decisions ended in a result of a turnover. Santana Moss believed Grossman deserved a second chance. “No question. That’s not even something that should be asked. I think that he deserves to start. [Eagles’ QB Michael] Vick threw four picks last week, came back and had a hell of a game. Tom Brady threw four picks two weeks ago. … I feel like for the flow of the game, it worked and kind of got a spark from bringing Beck in. But I just feel like you can’t just give up on a guy because he had a bad outing” Moss said in an article by Redskins Insider Mike Jones of the Washington Post. Beck has not received that same vocal support from his offensive players, and it shows on the field. The last three games the Redskins offense took the field, the players have looked flat. Is it because they don’t believe in the guy who is behind center the way they believed in Rex? This week against Miami John Beck will be going against the team that drafted him in 2007, and eventually let him go a couple of years later. Maybe going against his old team will spark something in him to play better, and earn his first victory as an NFL starter.
We have taken an in-depth look at what has taken place for the Washington Redskins this season. Lack of depth, bad play-calling, and no quarterback are the main reasons why this team has gotten off to a below average start. If you mix all of those factors together, and place them on a football field you get a 6-10 team. That is my prediction of where this team will finish at the end of the season. Unless Kyle Shanahan begins to show more patience in his play-calling, back-up players begin to show their worth, and a quarterback decides to show up and play for this team, the Redskins will be picking in a top 10 spot in the 2012 draft.