STEVE DeSHAZO: This team needs more than just a quick fix
LANDOVER, Md.— Since everyone’s compiling shopping lists at this time of year, the Washington Redskins may as well start theirs now.
Monday night’s lackluster 27–6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers reinforced the fact that the Redskins aren’t ready for prime time. (Wonder if NBC is regretting its decision to pass on moving this Sunday’s game against the New York Giants to the afternoon?)
Daniel Snyder’s wish list may well start with
a new head coach and coordinators. None of Washington’s coaches did anything to refute Robert Griffin’s claim
a week ago that the Philadelphia Eagles knew what was coming in their victory over the Redskins. And Monday’s nationally televised stinker is the kind that gets coaches fires.
Even if Snyder decides to honor the final year of Mike Shanahan’s contract, though, big changes are necessary. And there are three spots that need immediate attention: cornerback, right tackle and receiver. It couldn’t have been more evident. If a team is only as strong as its weakest link, the Redskins are triply weak.
The good news is the Redskins should have $18 million more to spend this offseason than anyone except Dallas (which endured a smaller penalty for circumventing the NFL’s salary cap). And they need to spend it wisely, because they need a lot of help.
We’ll start with cornerback, where Josh Wilson endured one of the worst nights in recent memory for anyone who wasn’t covering Calvin Johnson. Whether it was established pass-catchers like Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham or rookie tight end Vance McDonald, in man-to-man coverage or zone, a 49er was running past or jumping over Wilson on every critical play.
It wasn’t exactly fair. At 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds, Wilson faced a major size disadvantage against Davis (6–3, 250) or Boldin (6–1, 220). Because 38-year-old linebacker London Fletcher can’t cover tight ends anymore—least of all a freak of nature like Davis—the Redskins had to put their best cover corner (DeAngelo Hall) on Davis for most of the night, leaving Wilson to check Boldin. It was a disaster. Wilson also missed a potential fourth-down sack of Colin Kaepernick in the fourth quarter, allowing the 49ers’ quarterback to scramble for a first down.
By next season, David Amerson won’t be a rookie anymore and should be better prepared for tough assignments. He’s far bigger and more athletic than Wilson. Even still, the Redskins need more cornerbacks, because Wilson may well have played his way out of D.C. last night.
The fact that Wilson and right tackle Tyler Polumbus are starting for the Redskins speaks volumes about the state of the team. The Redskins tried six runs to the right side in the first half Monday night and netted a measly 16 yards.
Wilson and Polumbus aren’t the “next men up,” forced into action because of injuries. They’ve been starters for multiple years (Wilson for three, Polumbus for two). If the NFL used baseball statistics, they’d have to be near the bottom of the league in Value Over Replacement Player.
Joshua Morgan did get a start last night because of an injury to Leonard Hankerson. But he, like all of the Redskins’ receivers, lacks the speed to stretch the field. Pierre Garcon is a fine possession receiver, but aside from the inconsistent Aldrick Robinson, Robert Griffin III doesn’t have a downfield threat.
That lack of speed is accentuated by the Redskins’ pathetic special teams. The Redskins have to be the only NFL team that uses a tight end to return kickoffs, which may explain why they start almost every drive inside their own 20. The guess here is that Niles Crane could return kicks better than Niles Paul.
It becomes more remarkable by the week that the Redskins actually won the NFC East last year with such liabilities in their starting lineup. It speaks to Griffin’s ability and the Shanahans’ ability to exploit it.
This year, Griffin has neither the explosiveness nor the element of surprise, and the results are evident—and not pretty. Vince Lombardi couldn’t win with so many holes in this lineup. No matter who’s coaching this team in 2014, Snyder will have to invest lavishly—and wisely.
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443