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The 2016 Redskins will have to win with offense

Mar 17, 2016, 10:50 AM EDT


Although we are only a week into the new league year it is already apparent that the 2016 Redskins are going to have to win games based on how well their offense plays. The way things are going now their defense is not going to be much better than it was in 2015.

To be sure, the Redskins’ defense wasn’t awful in 2015, just on the lower end of mediocre. Although they were 28th in yards allowed they were 17th in points allowed. The number crunchers at Football Outsiders had them ranked 21st in DVOA.

The big picture view of the defense was that they gave up a lot of yards but they did well taking the ball away, ranking seventh with 27. They were pretty good on third downs (12th) and there was a bend but don’t break element with them as they were 13th in red zone defense and 12th in goal to go defense.

Again, that’s not great but it’s not all bad. And “we’re not dominant but not dreadful” will probably be the theme for the Redskins’ 2016 defense as well. It’s hard to see where great improvements will come from.

On the defensive line, while moving on from Jason Hatcher was the right thing to do in terms of the cap and looking towards the future, he did generate heat on the quarterback (48 pressures, one behind Ryan Kerrigan for the team lead). He will not be easily replaced. It looks like a draft pick will play nose tackle and another inexperienced player or two will be playing key snaps on the line. By sometime in 2017 this group could gel into a pretty good unit. Things might not be pretty in 2016.

Moving back to the linebackers, there is an opportunity to improve there now that Junior Galette has re-signed if he regains his explosiveness after suffering a torn Achilles last August. It’s safe to assume that Preston Smith will be consistent from beginning to end so his production should be higher. Perhaps Ryan Kerrigan will be better after he dealt with a knee injury.

So there is some reason to think that the pass rush will improve. However, the secondary is likely to remain suspect. At cornerback, Bashaud Breeland could get better in his third year. But Chris Culliver is coming off of a knee injury that he suffered in late November. The Redskins brought back Will Blackmon, which is good news but at the age of 31 he’s not suddenly going to morph into a lockdown corner. Quinton Dunbar is an interesting prospect but expectations should be low; he has been playing cornerback for less than a year.

Safety is likely to be the same weak spot it has been for almost 10 years in Washington. DeAngelo Hall could improve there after getting a full offseason at the position but his ability to stay healthy is in question. Injury issues have plagued Duke Ihenacho as well and the health of Kyshoen Jarrett is in question after he suffered possible nerve injury in the regular season finale. They added David Bruton, a nice addition but someone who is is a 29-year-old career backup. Barring a miracle safety will remain a vulnerable area.

Certainly they will add more defensive talent in the draft and they will pick up some more veterans. But unless they get very, very lucky they aren’t going to get the kind of players who can instantly transform the defense into a true top-10 unit.

It will again be up to the offense to put points up to win games. The Redskins were 10th in the league in scoring last year and they would like to improve that a few notches. That’s why they kept DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, with their combined cap hits of about $19 million. The choice to stick with the receivers shows what they want to do this year. The could have released one or both of them and they could have gotten in the chase for Olivier Vernon or Malik Jackson or other defenders who got huge paydays. But they know they will need to score points and they have made sure that they allocated their resources so that they will be able to continue to do so.

But defense wins championships, right? Yes, but Scot McCloughan would rather build up a top-notch defense via the draft instead of trying to do it in the free agent market. While he does that he wants to keep the team relevant and competitive by maintaining an effective offensive attack.

So expect to see another season where the Redskins will have to score at least somewhere in the mid twenties every week to have a chance of winning. That’s not where they want to be but it’s the best option for right now while they build for the future.

  1. abanig - Mar 17, 2016 at 10:59 AM

    That’s been the motto ever since Shanahan came to DC. Why change now?

  2. burtskins - Mar 17, 2016 at 11:02 AM

    Good article Rich.

    If the Redskins finish 9-7 again I’ll be more than happy right now.

    • scottmccloughanfan - Mar 17, 2016 at 11:18 PM

      With the first place schedule staring at them, I’ll be estatic.

      That would mean the team had made significant improvement.

  3. Bballplayer22 - Mar 17, 2016 at 11:05 AM

    That’s ridiculous. It’s March and you are already saying the defense will be shaky. Why don’t you wait and make that assumption in August.

    • Rich Tandler - Mar 17, 2016 at 12:07 PM

      Because this is what I do. Why not just have some fun?

  4. 226thebeatdontstop - Mar 17, 2016 at 11:18 AM

    If the Redskins have to rely on offense to win games and the division with the anticipated hope of playoffs then they might as well forget this season.

    This Gruden offense is average during the season if everything works according to their plan , they may get 7 or 8 wins but when its time for playoffs time this offense will not succeed or advance look at the Cincinnati Bengals over the last five years .

    They Redskins don’t have a reliable running scheme or back, if Jordan Reed get hurts then what? teams have figured out how to take away the deep threat in Jackson and Cousins has not demonstrated the ability to carry a team on his 20 million dollar back to victories..

    The Redskins play the AFC North this season the defenses in that conference are tough and physical .

    • bangkokben - Mar 17, 2016 at 11:31 AM

      blah. blah. blah. You’re giving Gruden way too much “credit” for Cincinnati’s failures. They hadn’t won a playoff game before him or after him yet the two years they didn’t win a playoff game with him transcends all that?

    • shermanp79 - Mar 17, 2016 at 11:43 AM

      10th ranked offense is not average. Yes, they were pass heavy the 2nd half but still produced points.

      • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 17, 2016 at 12:11 PM

        There is reason to hope their young offensive linemen will improve (Moses, Scherff, Long, and Kouandjio). It’s what good picks do after a year of experience.

        And it wouldn’t take much to get better play out of center than we got last year, which was due to mostly injured Lichtensteiger followed by first-time-starting-at-center LeRib.

        • wildbill1952 - Mar 17, 2016 at 2:18 PM

          I hope that Long shows up like Moses did last year, but not expecting it. Kouandjio has more talent but was injury prone in college and didn’t see the field last year. Long and Lichtensteiger are not powerhouses in the run game, although Long seems able to get to the second level, but neither was able to push the pile on any short yardage play – 3rd and short, 4th and short or goal line. The offense will only do as well as the OL does and the center would be (and was) a backup on other teams. Depth is always a concern on the OL as seldom do OL remain healthy for an entire season, But Gruden has always overestimated the ability of his offensive line. It’s obvious the Skins are not going after OL in FA, and it’s highly doubtful they’ll pick up a starter at center in the draft. So next year is not going to get better in the run game. The only hope is that Kouandjio or Long suddenly up their game like Moses did the year before. A healthy Lichtensteiger is still a liability. Great character guys, all of the Skins OL. But short on mass and talent at center and left guard.

        • bangkokben - Mar 17, 2016 at 5:02 PM

          Damn, Bill. No one arrives a finished product in the NFL – not even close. There are certainly more ways to improvement than just changing personnel. Give the young guys a chance. You mentioned Moses’ improvement. Half of that sprinkled on all of the guys with less than two years starting experience would go quite far — certainly farther than signing Wisnewski. Tenth in points scored with what they had at center. Any improvement there can go a long ways. No point in drafting guys and not seeing what you’ve got.

        • scottmccloughanfan - Mar 17, 2016 at 11:20 PM

          AUSTIN REITER……remember?

  5. bangkokben - Mar 17, 2016 at 11:40 AM

    Yes, the Redskins will need to rely on their offense and most likely their pass offense. There are folks in the league that think that Gruden Is a great mind when it comes to the passing game. (Andy Benoit, from MMQB, for instance.) I don’t know about that but the defense was patched together last year and will have to be patched together this year as well. What Barry DID do that Haslet couldn’t do was create turnovers, be stout (less than stout – sturdy) on 3rd down, and minimize points. If the replacements for Goldson, Knighton, and likely Culliver can play as well, then they may be able to hold the fort. It has been my opinion, that the defense needs impact players at each defensive level. Junior Galette could be that guy at the second level. Maybe D. Hall can become a ball hawk at FS after an entire off-season. Maybe, whomever they draft at #21 can be that player – or allow Chris Baker – to be an impact player on the d-line. The probability of these things happening are high but they’re certainly in the realm of possibility.

    • Thetruthis - Mar 17, 2016 at 4:18 PM

      Jay Grudens mind is about as great as Andy Benoit. “crickets…”

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 18, 2016 at 10:00 AM

      I think any fan should expect from this team is marginal improvement at best on both sides of the ball. The marginal improvements should come from steady improvements of past season productive young players and Galette.

      The area where improvement could be staggering is on the O-line. Callahan will have a 2nd season with the group. Moses and Schreff will be one year older manning the right side with the linchpin Williams on the left. I think Long improved during the season. Yes, many here have a valid point about the lack of a lock down center but I find the resigning of LeRibeus intriguing. While more likely the staff sees him as a useful backup, I wonder if they saw the progress at Center that many have overlooked. I’m no supporter of LeRibeus and expected him to be cut last season in TC. However, not too long ago Will Montgomery looked like roster fodder for the NFL but turned out to be a very capable center for this team. I’m not sure if the team will retain Shawn Lauvao at the current cap hit but he looked light years improved from one season to the next. It’s a shame he had the injury and so early in the season. I find it hard to believe that the coaches are not seriously considering keeping Lauvao based on what he did show last season.

      Unfortunately, turnovers from season to season don’t tend to be cyclical, and I don’t think this defense is one that has arrived to a point where they can create turnovers as a group. However, the area to watch on defense is the pressure they should provide in 2016. Galette’s motor and edge rushing capability at OLB will only help Kerrigan’s opportunistic instincts when pressure moves the QB his way. I continue to predict that Preston Smith play much more at DE than his rookie year. He’ll probably move between OLB and DE to help provide even more pressure.

      Overall, the team will still have many holes on the roster in 2016. However, the coaches did manage to keep all the offensive weapons that Cousins needs. Matt Jones is the X factor since I love what I see in him but know disappointment is still possible here. He’s won’t be the first player that appeared to have all the intangibles to be an elite player only fail the litmus test as a performer on the field

      • bangkokben - Mar 18, 2016 at 10:31 AM

        I see it the same way. The defense has holes, the o-line could be much better, LeRibeus’ return and the opportunity that affords him, Galette’s potential impact, and especially marginal improvement with the young players. The problems come when someone goes down. Losing Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen last year had ripple effects throughout the entire year. Losing Galette likely had a profound effect on the defense. Some years you can lose a guy like Orakpo and not see the effect while other years it’s near devastating. You never know what kind of depth you have until it is tested and even if it holds, your depth is lost. That is why I’m happy to see the GM target the back half of the roster first. The final 20 players remain to be seen but if this year’s draft is half as good as last year’s, then we’re on our way to being CONSISTENTLY competitive.

        Speaking of which, I’m so sick of the naysayers disparaging last season’s success. There are steps to take in becoming a winning organization. You can’t suck gas for two straight seasons and then be expected to beat the best teams. This team with minimum improvement has the ability to be competitive in every game this year.

  6. Earl Carver - Mar 17, 2016 at 11:50 AM

    Way to early in the season to assume an unfinished unit is anything other than unfinished unit…

    Strong defensive draft this year with still quality free agents available not to mention the ones who will be cut after the draft…


  7. - Mar 17, 2016 at 12:00 PM

    Well they were suppose to be at the bottom of the division last year i think its best to very patient with the skins we can be very dangerous so watch out its been alot of haten goin on watch out
    We are going to take the NFC by suprise

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 17, 2016 at 1:31 PM

      “The way things are going now ,” Rich wrote.

      Right now, we’ve let some guys go and signed cheap depth and role players in free agency.

      I don’t expect to see a huge change in the free agency, we’re going about it as McGlue said we would.

      But it’s possible we will draft some rookies who will make a difference. Remains to be seen.

      • lezziemcdykerson - Mar 17, 2016 at 7:32 PM

        Right now the defense is pretty much the same, as Rich stated. We will have rookies in rotation so it’s possible they, like Preston Smith, need to get knocked around in season before it all clicks. I don’t see anyone we’ve added that was worse than the FA we just let go but only time will tell. Our defense was extremely lucky last year and to an extent I guess you can say so was our offense. With an improved running game/oline cohesion longer sustained drives (hopefully scoring drives, that would also improve offensive production) our defense could see an uptick in effectiveness. One NT or one Pro-level ready DB and I think we hit 9-10 wins this year. The division is definitely in prime “Ran Off on The Plug Twice” position.

  8. sidepull - Mar 17, 2016 at 1:47 PM

    Terrance Garvin now a Redskin

    • kenlinkins - Mar 17, 2016 at 2:36 PM

      Haywoods replacement?

  9. cmehustle - Mar 17, 2016 at 2:55 PM

    Defense will be great, if the pass rushers perform. I dont care who we put on the defensive line or secondary. We rush the passer we’ll win this division. On offense, we need to consistently score 24 or better a game and we’ll be fine. No need to go out and spend a bunch of money on free agents. Weve tried that already, numerous times. We’re fine. That being said I think we spend all of our picks on Defense.

    • Jim McDonald - Mar 17, 2016 at 5:56 PM

      I agree, except for maybe a running back.

  10. Thetruthis - Mar 17, 2016 at 4:17 PM

    This is an ever evolving league. Many teams are a step behind and it shows come playoff time. Has anyone noticed that every team is talking about upping their “pass rush” performance in 2016. Thanks to the power play put up by the Broncos against a powerful offense, Panthers in the SB.

    Forget about 2015. Quarter Backs are going to have a tough time next year if they do not have smart intellectual head and offensive coaches. Pocket QB’s are definitely going to be subject to the sting of the pass rush i suspect. I noticed last year that the successful teams figured out how to get around the corners of the offensive linemen and sack even the better QB’s like Tom Brady. They sacked them as fast as 1.? seconds.

    What will this mean for the skins with their style of play???? A serious run game is going to be critical because if a team knows the offensive scheme is an old fashion dink and donk then the faster defenses are going to wreak havoc on such pocket passers. Just saying.

    The reason the Broncos won the SB in the way that they did is because they knew Carolina was so confident of their offensive success that they were not going to change anything. So, the Broncos went into their lab and concocted an attack that was upgraded and aggressive, and painful “shock and awe” because fear makes cowards out of people. That was a coaching victory as much as anything else. If the Panthers had to play them again two weeks later, it would have been a different game. The Panthers got caught off guard.

    so, if the skins think they are going to bring that same offense out to play next season, i think they may have a little more trouble on their hands.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 18, 2016 at 10:14 AM

      I completely agree the offense must become more diverse in order to have a chance to thrive and in order for Cousins to show he is worth anything near the cap hit the team took for him. There are a few promising young running backs on this team so they need to make proper use of them. If it is the same record pace short passing I saw replace the running game then at least I’ll continue to see Gruden for the one dimensional offensive minded coach that I’ve seen since he coached at Cincy.

  11. hail74 - Mar 17, 2016 at 4:38 PM

    If they want to really fix the defense then they need to sign guys who can actually tackle. For too many years this has been an issue with this team. Poor technique and failing to wrap up because of players going for the big hit instead.

  12. JOHN BALASCIO - Mar 17, 2016 at 6:38 PM

    One of main the reasons that we were 28th in yards allowed we had a shaky pass rush. With that in mind if Galette and Kerrigan can stay Healthy the pass rush will be better. Also with some more blitz packages if called. Should bring the yards allowed way down also bring the interceptions numbers up. The safety issues are very shaky. Now that leaves us with the run. That’s still where we will suck again so I do see a mid 12 to 19 ranking with the defense this year.

  13. Lawrence - Mar 17, 2016 at 10:33 PM

    Scott is a football guy that knows what he is doing. Httr since 1983 and I am really excited he is running the show. Best move snyder made since he bought the team. He picks up football guys that still have a true love got the game.

  14. scottmccloughanfan - Mar 17, 2016 at 11:17 PM

    Scott McCLOUGHAN is the best GM since BOBBY BEATHARD.

    My main man.

    In McCLOUGHAN we trust.

  15. Barry L. Catoe - Mar 18, 2016 at 5:08 AM

    If Gruden/ Mcvay dial up more play action and bootlegs, the offense should be fine and it shouldn’t be a problem scoring in the high 20’s – low 30’s.. There’s no real answer to stopping a fully healthy D-JAX.. The best deep threat in the NFL.. and of course Garcon or Crowder will be underneath.. And you know how effective Reed is.. Also more bubble screens to D-JAX and Crowder, and run Thompson out in the flats or underneath… They’re loaded with weapons, so much speed and agility.. But Mcvay has to open up the offense and turn past page 4 in the playbook.. If the defense can hold the opponents to 23 or less, we should pull most of these wins out.. Barring no major injury or suspensions.. Archives

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