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Think Outside the Box: How to Save the Season

Oct 27, 2006, 9:37 AM EST

The Redskins are in a box. It keeps getting smaller and smaller as the losses pile up. They need to break out of it in terms of thinking, effort, and enthusiasm. Here are a few ways they can do that:

Get Rocky McIntosh into the game more often. The Redskins first draft pick has what the defense has been missing—speed and solid tackling ability. Perhaps having the rookie flying around the field will inspire some more experience, higher-paid defenders to start doing the same. He doesn’t necessarily have to start, although Warrick Holdman does seem to be regressing to the way he played last year when he, well, sucked. But Gregg Williams needs to conjure up a few more packages that give McIntosh some significant playing time.

Get some more intermediate and long passes into the offense. Whether it’s Mark Brunell or Jason Campbell pulling the trigger, something has to be done to loosen up opposing defenses. It’s OK to use the dink and dunk attack as the basis of your passing attack. But if opposing defenses know that they can play tight because nobody’s going to even try to get behind them or, if a receiver should slip past them, the quarterback isn’t even going to look at him.

Figure out what to do with Adam Archuleta. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and hope for different results. While this adage applies to a number of areas on the team it’s no more glaring than it is with the free agent signee from the Rams. Time and time again he’s put into pass coverage situations that he just can’t handle. Archuleta gets a lot of criticism for it but that’s like being critical of me because I can’t jump over the top of the Washington Monument. He’s being asked to do things he just isn’t capable of doing. Williams needs to scheme around his weaknesses and emphasize his strengths.

Play like you have nothing to lose. Go for it on fourth and one near midfield in the second quarter. Open the game with an onside kick. Come out in a no-huddle offense for the first series of the second half. Run a fake punt or field goal. These are all things that Gibbs did from time to time during his first run here that he have been left out of the plans entirely this time around. Don’t try all of this in the same game, mind you, but at least one or two such elements need to be present every week. For most of the season the team has either been tight or downtrodden. Whether the tactics work or not, taking chances and doing some things in an unorthodox manner gives the players a spark and shows that the coaches have confidence in them.

These are all relatively small changes, but changes such as these are the only ones that can me made at this point in time. In the NFL the difference between being competitive and being bad is slim. The nature of the game is that the result of a few relatively small changes can be much greater than the sum of the parts. A few 20-yard outs to Lloyd will fire up the offense and put the opposing defense back on its heels. The sight of a guy like McIntosh flying around the field can give a positive jolt of energy to players on both sides of the ball.

Will this be enough to save the Redskins season? Check back in this space in the next few days as a Special Bye Week Edition of the wildly popular Bold Predictions will break it down and see how the team will fare over the final nine games.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

  1. Anonymous - Oct 29, 2006 at 9:36 PM

    I believe the Redskins must rediscover how to play defense the way they did the past 2 seasons. I don’t know what Greg Williams is doing this year. He seems not to have any gameplan that takes advantage of the players he has to work with. Furthermore, the defense seems always to be playing not to lose instead of taking risks and trying to create broken plays and turnovers.

    In the linebacking corp, only Marcus Washington is having a demonstrable impact. Holdman and Marshall are for the large part invisible. I agree that putting the rookie McIntosh in is perhaps a way to install some energy into the defense. I also believe that Archuleta needs to be only the nickle back on passing downs and that Troy Vincent (or someone else) needs to be the free safety involved in coverage when the pass defense is needed. The scheme needs to encourage Archuleta to do more of what he is capable of. This is obviously not pass defense.

    When the season began, I was very excited about the Redskins D-line. I believed that with Griffin, Salave’a, and Carter that the line was solid and perhaps this would be the strength of the defense. I was really worried that the linebacking corp minus Pierce and the troubled Arrington would perhaps need help and the D-line is where that help would come from. Sadly, the D-line has had numerous injuries and played inconsistently. My thought is that Williams needs to do something to get this unit to be more effective. Maybe they should move personnel around more.

    I still believe that for the Redskins season to turn around, it must start at defense. We can point fingers at the offense, but the fact is that that with Al Saunders now in charge, it may take time for things to gel offensively. I also think that Campbell should not remain on the bench. If Gibbs thought Campbell was the future, then he should put his money where his mouth is and give the kid a chance.

  2. Anonymous - Oct 29, 2006 at 9:36 PM

    I believe the Redskins must rediscover how to play defense the way they did the past 2 seasons. I don’t know what Greg Williams is doing this year. He seems not to have any gameplan that takes advantage of the players he has to work with. Furthermore, the defense seems always to be playing not to lose instead of taking risks and trying to create broken plays and turnovers.

    In the linebacking corp, only Marcus Washington is having a demonstrable impact. Holdman and Marshall are for the large part invisible. I agree that putting the rookie McIntosh in is perhaps a way to install some energy into the defense. I also believe that Archuleta needs to be only the nickle back on passing downs and that Troy Vincent (or someone else) needs to be the free safety involved in coverage when the pass defense is needed. The scheme needs to encourage Archuleta to do more of what he is capable of. This is obviously not pass defense.

    When the season began, I was very excited about the Redskins D-line. I believed that with Griffin, Salave’a, and Carter that the line was solid and perhaps this would be the strength of the defense. I was really worried that the linebacking corp minus Pierce and the troubled Arrington would perhaps need help and the D-line is where that help would come from. Sadly, the D-line has had numerous injuries and played inconsistently. My thought is that Williams needs to do something to get this unit to be more effective. Maybe they should move personnel around more.

    I still believe that for the Redskins season to turn around, it must start at defense. We can point fingers at the offense, but the fact is that that with Al Saunders now in charge, it may take time for things to gel offensively. I also think that Campbell should not remain on the bench. If Gibbs thought Campbell was the future, then he should put his money where his mouth is and give the kid a chance.

  3. Joe - Oct 30, 2006 at 12:35 PM

    “These are all relatively small changes, but changes such as these are the only ones that can me made at this point in time.”

    Agreed, there are some small changes that can be made that may help us win a couple more games than we would otherwise. But it’s hard to overlook the glaring “macro” problems with this team.

    I disagree with the anon poster, our defense is not going to improve this season. None of our corners can cover right now. The D-line has aged and regressed. Adding a coverage safety like Vincent and getting Rocky involved may help some, but probably not to a large degree.

    The only hope for improving our record at this point is to win some shoot-outs. I believe that we have the coordinator and playmakers to put up lots of points. However, #8 is obviously not able or willing to execute this offense.

    If Campbell is not ready to go, then lets see if Collins can turn the offense around. That’s the guy Saunders wanted in the first place. I’d give him a couple games and if he’s no better, then it’s time to see the kid.

  4. Joe - Oct 30, 2006 at 12:35 PM

    “These are all relatively small changes, but changes such as these are the only ones that can me made at this point in time.”

    Agreed, there are some small changes that can be made that may help us win a couple more games than we would otherwise. But it’s hard to overlook the glaring “macro” problems with this team.

    I disagree with the anon poster, our defense is not going to improve this season. None of our corners can cover right now. The D-line has aged and regressed. Adding a coverage safety like Vincent and getting Rocky involved may help some, but probably not to a large degree.

    The only hope for improving our record at this point is to win some shoot-outs. I believe that we have the coordinator and playmakers to put up lots of points. However, #8 is obviously not able or willing to execute this offense.

    If Campbell is not ready to go, then lets see if Collins can turn the offense around. That’s the guy Saunders wanted in the first place. I’d give him a couple games and if he’s no better, then it’s time to see the kid.

  5. Anonymous - Oct 30, 2006 at 1:40 PM

    Joe, run-and-shoot may get you part of the way, but it will not take you all the way. Even when Saunders was in KC, the Chiefs never managed to make it to the Super Bowl because their defense couldn’t be counted on to win games. If the offense is having a bad day (for whatever reason) those teams that aim to win by putting up big numbers on offense inevitably fall short. Look at the Rams with Mike Martz, the Chiefs with Al Saunders, the Raiders, and the Vikings as recent examples of franchises that tried to win without a viable defense. Witness how the Bears and the Ravens are showing how you can win if you build the franchise around the defense. I am particularly impressed with the Bears. Even Denver with Plummer at QB has had success winning games where the defense carried them.

    So, while I agree that the Redskins offense must improve, I also believe that Redskins must find some solution to their defensive woes. I believe that Greg Williams is smart enough to find some answers to their problems. I hope it starts next week and not next season.

  6. Anonymous - Oct 30, 2006 at 1:40 PM

    Joe, run-and-shoot may get you part of the way, but it will not take you all the way. Even when Saunders was in KC, the Chiefs never managed to make it to the Super Bowl because their defense couldn’t be counted on to win games. If the offense is having a bad day (for whatever reason) those teams that aim to win by putting up big numbers on offense inevitably fall short. Look at the Rams with Mike Martz, the Chiefs with Al Saunders, the Raiders, and the Vikings as recent examples of franchises that tried to win without a viable defense. Witness how the Bears and the Ravens are showing how you can win if you build the franchise around the defense. I am particularly impressed with the Bears. Even Denver with Plummer at QB has had success winning games where the defense carried them.

    So, while I agree that the Redskins offense must improve, I also believe that Redskins must find some solution to their defensive woes. I believe that Greg Williams is smart enough to find some answers to their problems. I hope it starts next week and not next season.

  7. Joe - Oct 30, 2006 at 3:23 PM

    The anon poster is correct on all counts. Defense wins championships. It’s been shown time and time again. Potent offenses are lots of fun until the playoffs start. Just ask Peyton Manning.

    My point, however, is that we don’t have a good defense. That is, the majority of the players on defense are individually not good enough to play at this level. It is sad but true. They have aged and/or regressed to the point that they’re not competitive.

    It’s painful to say because we wasted a championship caliber unit in 2004. Right now, there is 1 guy on the defense that is playing like a legitimate NFL starter: M. Washington. Injuries to Griffen, Salave’a, and Springs have kept them from being effective. Taylor and Rogers have regressed. Everyone else is invisible.

    In the short term, no amount of scheming is going to change the fact that many of our defenders simply can’t play. I’m hopeful that they’ll adopt an attacking philosophy so that maybe we can force some occasional mistakes.

    But, seriously, the only hope for this season is that the offense takes a big step once Brunell is shown the bench. Unlike past seasons, we need the offensive playmakers to compensate for a lack of ability on the other side of the ball.

  8. Joe - Oct 30, 2006 at 3:23 PM

    The anon poster is correct on all counts. Defense wins championships. It’s been shown time and time again. Potent offenses are lots of fun until the playoffs start. Just ask Peyton Manning.

    My point, however, is that we don’t have a good defense. That is, the majority of the players on defense are individually not good enough to play at this level. It is sad but true. They have aged and/or regressed to the point that they’re not competitive.

    It’s painful to say because we wasted a championship caliber unit in 2004. Right now, there is 1 guy on the defense that is playing like a legitimate NFL starter: M. Washington. Injuries to Griffen, Salave’a, and Springs have kept them from being effective. Taylor and Rogers have regressed. Everyone else is invisible.

    In the short term, no amount of scheming is going to change the fact that many of our defenders simply can’t play. I’m hopeful that they’ll adopt an attacking philosophy so that maybe we can force some occasional mistakes.

    But, seriously, the only hope for this season is that the offense takes a big step once Brunell is shown the bench. Unlike past seasons, we need the offensive playmakers to compensate for a lack of ability on the other side of the ball.

  9. John - Nov 6, 2006 at 5:37 PM

    We need to get Randle El the ball more, only good things have happened when he’s been given even a chance at making a play.

  10. John - Nov 6, 2006 at 5:37 PM

    We need to get Randle El the ball more, only good things have happened when he’s been given even a chance at making a play.

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