The votes are being counted, and at 3-6 the early returns are not favorable to a successful Redskins season. It was bad enough that the Skins lost their "Homecoming" game to the Panthers. Then there was the postgame presser that left everyone but the head coach feeling like he was punting on the season. Mike Shanahan clarified his comments on Monday with the media, and then on Tuesday with his team. It was far from the smoothest week in the Shanahan regime.
Shanahan is now halfway through his 5-year contract with a 14-27 record, and that has many fans wondering if the franchise is truly headed in the right direction. Even the Washington Post Kids section is crushing the Coach. So, as players and coaches get away for the bye week, this week's edition of "Chain Reactions" takes a closer look on the good, bad, and ugly of Washington's first 9 games.
This is easy. The "Rookie Backs" are not just the good, but the hope for the Redskins' franchise for years to come. Robert Griffin III was expected to be the real deal, coming off a Heisman Trophy-winning season at Baylor and wowing scouts at the combine and during the pre-draft process. He has lived up to the hype, even with two straight games that were subpar compared to his first seven. RGIII is giving a fan base that has had so little to cheer about over the last two decades plenty of hope.
The guy behind him, Alfred Morris, has been a diamond in the rough from this year's draft. Morris is the anchor of an offense that is 2nd in the NFL in rushing. Morris is also 6th among NFL rushers in yards per game at 88.1. He does not go down on first contact. Morris is the first late-round hit in Shanahan's three draft classes. Morris is also the product of the Donovan McNabb to the Minnesota Vikings trade, which takes some of the sting out the deal with the Eagles. Over the final seven games, Griffin and Morris need to continue to develop and lead the Redskins' offense.
Honorable mention to kicker Kai Forbath, who has yet to miss a field goal. He needs work on his kickoffs. However, Redskins fans are just happy to have confidence in a kicker for the first time in too many years.
The Redskins' receivers have improved in the YAC department from last season. However, overall this is still an inconsistent group. Clearly RGIII could use a healthy Pierre Garcon, who teased Skins fans in the first quarter in New Orleans. The loss of Fred Davis for the season was a big blow, too. The offense needs someone to step up. Garcon is still very iffy to even play again this season.
So if Garcon does not play who will emerge? Josh Morgan has been getting better, but he's not a game-breaker. Santana Moss seems to be an obvious candidate, but has done little since his big day against the Giants. Leonard Hankerson has had too many drops, but it is too early to say he's a bust in his first year of really playing. Aldrick Robinson is still a work in progress with big potential because of his speed. Dez Briscoe is an experienced guy, who for whatever reason is not getting enough of an opportunity. Brandon Banks is clearly just a specialist who continues to struggle to find any consistency and has many wondering why he is still on the roster, since kickoffs are no longer a big part of the NFL.
Tight end-wise, Logan Paulsen is a reliable receiver, but not a game-breaker. Niles Paul could be a game-breaker as he gets more opportunities and becomes more comfortable at the tight end position. Chris Cooley's return has yet to pay off on the field. Perhaps in the final seven games, he will be a bigger part of the offense.
The defense is beyond ugly for the Redskins, who rank 31st in pass defense, 30th in overall defense --surrendering 397 yards per game -- and 27th in points per game, with teams averaging 27 points against the 'Skins. The secondary is a mess. They seem to give up a big play every week, which has canceled out otherwise strong performances in games against the Giants and Panthers. Teams are averaging over 300 yards passing against the Redskins. The number is helped by Washington allowing 8 plays of 40 yards or more this season.
The front seven, despite being stout against the run (9th in the NFL), been a big part of the struggles, too. The pass rush has been almost non-existent as the Redskins have gone sackless the past two weeks. Surely, the losses of Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker are a big part of it. However, the alleged depth the coaching staff and players pumped up in the preseason has yet to show itself.
Brandon Meriweather should be back on the field after the bye. However, he can only add so much. It is on each player to pick up their play. Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett is safe for now, but he will need to continue to try to mix and match and scheme up the defense to make up for some obvious personnel issues. The final seven games could be make or break for Haslett's future with the Redskins.