In a telling quote after the loss to Detroit on Sunday, Chris Cooley told reporters that “every part of our offense is garbage. Not just one facet, but all of it.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Halfway through the regular season, calling the Redskins offense “a work in progress” isn’t just sugar-coating it as much as it’s completely avoiding the truth altogether. It’s a wildly inconsistent unit that has no real identity, and does nothing consistently well, except for maybe shooting itself in the foot with the most untimely penalties and turnovers possible. We’ve been teased with glimpses of a power running game and a vertical passing attack at times this season, but unfortunately, the bottom line remains that the offense still has a long ways to go before the Redskins can truly consider themselves contenders in the NFC East, or NFC overall.
Let’s start with Donovan McNabb, who after a promising start to the season, has unquestionably taken a step back over the last three weeks. Over that span of time, he’s thrown for only three touchdowns (two of which traveled less than 10 yards), but has five interceptions and has not eclipsed the 250 yard passing mark in any of those games (he’s done so only twice this season, despite the Redskins having completed half their regular season to date). While McNabb’s poise under duress, confident demeanor, and ability to complete passes over 40 yards still remain the polar opposite of what we had to endure from Jason Campbell over the last two and a half years, we’re starting to get a glimpse of the “worm burners”, unnecessary fastballs, and erratic accuracy that Eagles fans grew so tired of over the last few years. His interception in the 4th quarter last Sunday was completely inexcusable; an 11 year veteran should know not to thread the needle between three defenders when you’re protecting a five point lead.
But in McNabb’s defense, it’s not exactly like he has the Hogs protecting him and the Posse flanking him, either. As the old saying goes: You can’t make Chicken Soup out of Chicken [Poop]. And right now, the Redskins have a bunch of players offense who are playing at a level that can best be described as “dung.”
Take a look at the Redskins offensive line. At no point in time this season has this unit looked like it got the better of the opposing defensive line, let alone dominating them. There are times when opposing defenders have broken through, taken a seat, and started playing a game of Yahtzee in the backfield. It’s really hard for a running back to gain any yardage if he has a defensive tackle and linebacker waiting for him in the backfield, as soon as he receives the hand off. If we’re speaking in terms of plastic surgery, this offensive line doesn’t just need a face lift or a shot of botox this off season, it needs a god damned trans-gender reconstruction. The way Casey Rabach and Kory Lichtensteiger played last Sunday, i’m completely convinced that they couldn’t have stopped a four girl scouts from sacking McNabb. Of course, in Lichtensteiger’s defense, he’s been playing that way all year, so it’s not like we should have been surprised by his performance last week. Oh, and just for good measure, Artis Hicks also decided to play his absolute worst game of the season on Sunday, to boot.
Jammal Brown, who I still think was a hell of an acquisition, hasn’t been quite right since the day he arrived in Washington. Because of Shanahan’s Belichick-ian confidentiality with the extent of many player’s injuries, I don’t think a lot of Redskins fans realize that we got a damaged product from New Orleans right off the bat. Which means we’ve been stuck with extended stints at right tackle from Stephon Heyer, who is the offensive tackle equivalent of ex-Wizard Kwame Brown: enormous physical potential, yet has absolutely no clue what the hell he’s doing out there on the football field. Even Trent Williams, who played so well in the beginning of the season, seems to have regressed a bit. Williams has all the potential in the world to be the next elite left tackle in this league, and he’s done a slightly-better-than-adequate job (especially given the murderer’s row of pass rusher’s that he’s faced in the first half of the season). But whether it’s nagging injuries or just being “green” in general, he’s not quite at that elite “set it and forget it” level of left tackle just yet.
And to make matters even worse, even if McNabb did have the Offensive Line of the ‘91 Redskins protecting him (man I miss those guys), the group of players he has surrounding at the skill position are completely and utterly devoid of play makers not named Santana Moss. I’ll say it ’til I’m blue in the face: Anthony Armstrong is a nice find and a better story, but if you think he’s anything more than a #3 receiver, you’re kidding yourself. The rest of the depth chart at receiver, after Armstrong, is just plain laughable. The Redskins didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel and see something that 31 other franchises didn’t with guys like Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams; they’re both has-beens or never-will-be’s. There are at least 10 guys on the street right now who could come in an contribute more than they have. Shanahan keeps saying they’re on the roster because they practice hard and do the right thing during the week, but they must seriously look like Jerry Rice and Lynn Swann in practices, because they don’t produce a damn thing on the field (Deangelo Hall has as many “receptions” as Williams, and he hasn’t taken an offensive snap all season).
And I don’t care what any coach or any injury report tells me, Cooley just hasn’t been the same since his concussion. He’s not playing at 100% yet, which is alarming and borderline catastrophic considering he’s now the only real dependable receiver outside of Moss, and Shanahan refuses to incorporate Fred Davis (Cooley’s backup) into his passing attack
Things aren’t much brighter in the running game, either. Everyone knows Shanahan’s reputation of turning moderately talented running backs into thousand yard rushers in Denver, but thinking you could make anything out never-will-be practice-squad fodder like Keiland Williams and Chad Simpson is indefensible. These guys are nothing more than warm bodies who can maybe contribute a special teams tackle or two in a best-case scenario, yet we’re going to have to rely on them while Clinton Portis gets himself in game shape and Ryan Torain recovers from a hamstring injury.
Unfortunately, the Redskins aren’t going to address all the talent shortcomings in one single bye week. All they can basically do is regroup, lick their wounds, and (hopefully) make some adjustments as they enter the positively brutal 2nd half of their schedule.
If there’s a silver lining in this, it’s that, to a man, every player on offense believes the unit is on the offense is on the brink of success. Reading their quotes, you can tell that their performance doesn’t come from a a lack of preparation by the coaches or an inferior game plan put together during the week. It’s just a matter of execution: doing your job and beating the man in front of you. To me, it just seems like we don’t quite have the pieces to do this yet. Even though we’re 4-4 and right in the thick of things amongst a parity-filled NFC, maybe as Redskins fans, we need to temper our expectations regarding this team, and understand that this team is still a work in progress.
Before this season began, anyone who knows anything about football would say that a 7-9 or 8-8 record is right about where the Redskins could realistically expect to finish in Year One of the Shanahan regime. So far, we’re on pace to reach this. Maybe we have to understand that if we’re going to win the marathon that is the NFL regular season, we have to learn to run consistently before we can learn to run competitively.
This article was written for and cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com