Without a doubt, the Redskins fell flat on their face last season. It was a big disappointment for a team entering with Superbowl aspirations. As a result of the tumultuous season, the fans witnessed a purging of several critical faces. Even I have to admit as a Redskins fan that it was painful to see a top caliber offensive from 2012 take such a step back the following season. There are a plethora of reasons as to this happened but ultimately the HC Mike Shanahan and the OC Kyle Shanahan ended up under the axe.
With cuts comes additions and the Redskins bring in former Cincinnati Bengal OC Jay Gruden to correct the offensive woes of 2013. He is a proven signal caller that brings a versatile west-coast attack with a knack for player development. While OC at Cincinnati he oversaw the development of then rookies Andy Dalton and the mercurial A.J. Green. Under Gruden’s tutelage, Dalton improved every season as a passer and A.J. Green was and remains one of the league’s top wideouts to date. Also, the Bengals were able to reach the playoffs in all 3 seasons while he was the OC. Without a doubt, his credentials are a big reason for his opportunity to coach the Redskins. The real question is: How quickly can RG3 and this relatively young offense adapt and learn the new play book? The front office has played it very safe by keeping similar faces intact to maintain the chemistry of RG3 and his targets bar the addition of underrated Andre Roberts (former Cardinal). We have no clue what to expect from this group going into 2014 but with Sean McVay (previously TE coach) at the helm of the offensive, it is safe to say that we will be seeing a lot more of the ultra-talented Jordan Reed.
While many people pointed fingers to the defense as the primary reason for the Redskin’s woes, they are both correct and incorrect. One has to understand the momentum shifts of the game and how the offense and defense complements one another to successfully come out of a game with a win. All top minds in the NFL understand this and that is why any team can come out with a win on any given Sunday.
Just a simple example: Let’s say that the Redskins defense stayed on the field for a grueling 8 min as the opposing team put together a clock-killing drive. After forcing a field-goal, one can say the defense did a great job as they prevented a touchdown. Immediately following the stop, the offense proceeds to go 3-and-out after a mere couple of minutes. Would you think a tired and out-of-breath defense can stop the opposing attack again?
Now back to the Redskin’s defense. Jim Haslett was responsible for a unit ranked 31st in pts allowed. Still, Jay Gruden expressed his respect for Haslett and Dan Synder decided to keep him around for the 2014 season. Instead of altering coaches and defensive schemes, Synder decided to give Haslett more toys. Jason Hatcher the former Cowboy coming off a Pro Bowl season and was a major acquisition to improve a group that racked up a mere 5.5 sacks combined. Hatcher's flexibility on the line will allow Haslett to give opposing quarterbacks multiple schemetic looks while maintaining the pressure up front. Darryl Sharpton (former Texan) has flown under the radar at Houston behind the bigger names like J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing. Nonetheless, with London Fletcher's impending retirement, this was a good gamble on a solid team player that built-up familiarity with the 3-4 scheme while playing under Wade Phillips in Houston. Tracy Porter the former Oakland Raider was another good low-cost acquisition that could pay dividends as his ball-hawking abilities are perfect fit in Haslett's zone-heavy looks. If last year’s second rounder David Amerson can make the leap into a full-fledged shut-down corner that he is capable of, the secondary should be significantly better than it was last season. Overall, Jim Haslett now has the pieces in place to keep up with the league’s top offenses.
Drastic changes have taken place in the offseason in D.C. but clearly it is still all about RG3. Can he return to the player that we all fell in love with? I certainly believe so and with all these fresh changes for the better, the playoffs is in our radar once again.