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Need to Know: Redskins have a big mountain to climb to improve their record

Jul 6, 2015, 5:13 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 6, 24 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

A big mountain to climb

A few weeks ago here I looked at some reasons why the Redskins could be better than we think. If you’ve been looking for the other side of that coin, reasons why the Redskins might not have a record much better than the 4-12 they posted last year, here it is.

If they do again end up with double-digit losses it won’t necessarily be due to not having improved personnel or the coaching staff. Scot McCloughan has done a good job of shoring up the team’s major weaknesses (and the hiring of McCloughan filled a major weak spot in the front office).

But the Redskins have a big mountain to climb. As Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post pointed out, the Redskins weren’t just bad last year. They were really bad.

They were outscored by 137 points, an average of 8.6 per game. Only three other teams had a worse point differential. If you look at the 15 games they played against teams not named the Jacksonville Jaguars that per-game deficit increases to 10.5 points per game. Their 12 losses came by an average of over two touchdowns (14.6 points).

The Redskins did not lose many games that they were in late. Only in the losses to the Eagles, Vikings and 49ers were they truly competitive throughout. If you want to say that they “shoulda” won those games, that’s fine. But they also “coulda” lost to the Titans, Cowboys, and Eagles.

In short, they were what their record said they were.

A tremendous improvement for the 2015 Redskins would be to cut the scoring deficit by about six points per game. If they can do that, they would be around -40 in scoring. What kind of record could that get them?

Last year the Browns were outscored by 38 and went 7-9. The Falcons were -36 in net points and went 6-10. The Panthers won the NFC South at 7-8-1 while going -35 in net points. Going back to 2013 the Bills were -49 in points and 6-10 in the standings.

So we could expect some modest improvement in their record if they can shave that scoring deficit down to a few points per game. How likely is such an improvement? It would be unusual but not unheard of. Since Joe Gibbs’ first departure from the Redskins head coaching job in 1992, they have improved by at least 85 net points from one season to the next five times. The most recent was from 2011-2012 when they went from -79 to +48, a 127-point swing in the positive direction.

That improvement lifted the Redskins from 5-11 in last place to 10-6 and the NFC East title. Rookies Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris got the team’s offense rolling and led the turnaround. Is there a similar transformational force this time around?

Perhaps at least a partial return to form by Griffin, a revitalized rushing game featuring Morris and rookie Matt Jones and a solid defensive improvement will spur some solid improvement.

It’s possible but far from certain that they will experience the type of turnaround they have seen once every four years or so in the past 20 years. They also could be better, maybe substantially better, and still not have it show up in the “W” column. We will see if they can take a giant leap forward or if any progress is more in the form of baby steps.


—It’s been 190 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 69 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 24; Preseason opener @ Browns 38; final cuts 61

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  1. colmac69 - Jul 6, 2015 at 6:31 AM

    As things stand right now I would b willing to bet we get more than four wins…however lots can change between now and september

    Defense should b better….if things develope this yr the way its set up our defense could b really gd in couple yrs…u got young d-line with a dominating nose tackle (I would presume if knighton performs as xpected he will get shiny new contract so that should b nose tackle sorted)….if either murphy /Smith can develope into gd pass rusher u got kerrigan on other side that b your two pass rushers from outside….robinson inside and with corners culliver/breeland/amerson you could have, potentially, a 3-4 defense that could b dominating for number of yrs as most players mentioned are mid 20, s…..only thing missing would b dominating safety but that could b addressed nxt couple yrs one would imagine…..

    Ultimately how many games we win b determined in how offense plays this season……think defense will keep us close in a number games which should give offense chance to pull out a couple extra wins……

    As has been mentioned before for first time in years there is reason for optimism for nxt few seasons…….in couple yrs I b disappointed if we not contending for playoffs and div titles

  2. gonavybeatarmy - Jul 6, 2015 at 8:21 AM

    Over the long haul Las Vegas normally wins. So, a 6-10 record prediction isn’t crazy.

  3. kenlinkins - Jul 6, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    Let’s wait until we see a few preseason games and how all the new parts fit into place. There are still many questions to be answered and we still do not know just how the new guys will pan out. The good news is that with so many changes almost anything could happen! If the Redskins can get out of training camp without a major injury to the full time starters, it could prove to be very interesting at the half way point (say maybe 5-3) before the wheels start to come off.

  4. John Weathers - Jul 6, 2015 at 10:42 AM

    I don’t understand this article because the Redskins will probably have 7 new starters on defense. That means they have a new defense. RG III Is in the offense for a 2nd year with a QB coach. The offensive line has a new coach & players as well. If the Redskins just did it in 2012 why can’t they do it again??

    • Rich Tandler - Jul 6, 2015 at 1:35 PM

      “New” isn’t always necessarily “better”. If you haven’t learned that following the Redskins you haven’t been paying enough attention.

      • bangkokben - Jul 6, 2015 at 3:48 PM

        True. When it comes to the Redskins and ‘new,’ the results have been similar to New Coke.

        • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Jul 6, 2015 at 8:09 PM

          “Same old Danny team” usually.

  5. bangkokben - Jul 6, 2015 at 11:49 AM

    Mountain or mole hill? Probably somewhere in between. Improving turnovers on both sides of the ball would flip those differentials. Who knows, maybe Joe Barry is the guy who can actually get this defense to generate turnovers? As great as Gregg Williams and Greg Blache were in getting the defense ranked in the top ten, they still couldn’t generate the turnovers. Having a healthy D. Hall back could help too.

    • ET - Jul 6, 2015 at 2:52 PM

      To be fair, it’s the players who have to generate the turnovers. The DC can scheme for a greater probability of turnovers, but if a corner or safety has stone hands, that INT becomes a pass defensed. Or if you’re Chris Baker, you may be too busy doing a Swaggy Dance to make an easy fumble recovery …

      • bangkokben - Jul 6, 2015 at 3:30 PM

        True. Maybe if Carlos Rogers gets contacts in Washington he catches all those INTs. But nothin’ stops a swaggy dance.

  6. renhoekk2 - Jul 6, 2015 at 3:00 PM

    I’m never the overly optimistic type, but that Boswell article was like a gut punch. You always like to believe the Skins are a year or two away from getting better. To read the more likely outcome is 5 or 6 years away is mind numbingly depressing.

    • bangkokben - Jul 6, 2015 at 5:00 PM

      Boswell is a baseball fan disappointed that today’s sports world is no longer enamored with the sport he loves. He has spent a generation proclaiming how much D.C. needs a baseball team. Now we have one – one that is winning and has the game’s young superstar and the under 50 portion of the city YAWNS. HTTR.

      Look at how Gibbs and Shanahan did their first year’s on the job when it comes to W-L and net points.

      2004 6-10 -25 net points Spurrier
      2005 5-11 – 85 net Gibbs year 1
      2006 10-6 +66 net Gibbs year 2

      2009 4-12 -70 net Zorn
      2010 6-10 -75 net Shanahan year 1
      2011 5-11 -79 net Shanahan year 2
      2012 10-6 +48 net Shanahan year 3

      2013 3-13 -144 net Shanahan
      2014 4-12 -136 net Gruden year 1

      Each of the three coaches were unable to make instant change. In fact Shanahan and Gruden’s results are virtually the same as their predecessors and Gibbs was worse but just slightly. Gibbs was able to make the quickest turnaround, two years, while Shanahan took three years. Of course neither were able to make anything sustainable. It remains to be seen what Gruden will do but I’d argue that a turnaround is lot more likely to happen two years from now than six years as baseball-lovin’ Boz suggests.

  7. hk2000 - Jul 6, 2015 at 3:34 PM

    To cut the point deficit substantially, you need to score a lot of points! Even with the improved defense (supposedly), we still have a lot of questions in areas that can lead to giving up a lot of points- especially on special teams. Unless the coach gets creative with his game plans and schemes, or give up play calling all together and focus on managing all aspects of the game overall and let the offense and defense coaches handle the play calls, then I don’t see much improvement. We’re talking about a coach who came in last year and before the season even started, he was talking about wining games 13-10, so he obviously saw that he did not have the personnel needed to run his offense effectively, and instead of devising ways to make it work, he gave up on them rather than give up on his one dimensional offense ( play calling, schemes,… etc.). So in short, it’s in the coaches hands as to whether this team will climb that mountain.

  8. Skulb - Jul 6, 2015 at 5:06 PM

    I think this post points out why there`s a big difference between a 4-12 team and a 6-10 team, and a lot of hard work that needs doing on the field to improve that much. Most Skins fans would probably be disappointed with 6-10 but I actually wouldn`t. It depends on the performance of course, but improving scoring deficit, turnovers, sacks and actually staying in their games I would take in a heartbeat with a 6-10 record. There were at least six games last season where everyone just gave up. Not blaming the players. Hopeless is hopeless. But it`s the last thing you want to have to sit through as a fan.

  9. mr.moneylover - Jul 6, 2015 at 6:22 PM

    If everybody gets on the same page before week 1 then the off-season was a success…if players looking like a chicken with its head cut off then the off-season was a failure and you got to blame the coaches for that….cant wait to see if this team gonna be more physical or is they still gonna be soft as tissue

  10. mr.moneylover - Jul 6, 2015 at 6:32 PM

    I dont think players was buying in to jim hasslet scheme nor the strength and conditioning coach…atleast they have structure now…Joe barry and mike Clark motto is IM YOUR TEACHER/BOSS FIRST AND IM YOUR FRIEND SECOND…theres no way you let your players walk out in film study and say you trust him studying at home HELL NO…what type of leader you tryna be to your players basically jim hasslet let his players walk all over him and the players like him for that they really havent experience the hard work you gotta put in to become great

  11. mr.moneylover - Jul 6, 2015 at 7:04 PM

    Didnt know Former Oline coach chris forester let all his Oline players rest when they practice special teams and they practice special teams 50 % of the time the media should’ve made that a big story thats valuable reps when the Oline practice special teams and to find out they was sitting on the side watching others practice on special teams that piss me off no wonder they look bad for the pass two years… im glad new oline coach Bill C. saying hell no they dont get a break when the team practice special teams because those are reps as well and you gotta take advantage of those… Archives

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