The Redskins will get back to work today after their bye week. The players have been off since last Tuesday but the coaches worked until Friday.
Jay Gruden said that they planned to spend a couple of days doing some early game planning for their game against the Patriots this Sunday and then do some self scouting to see if they have some tendencies that they need to break.
“I think what we’re going to do in the bye week is self-evaluate,” Gruden said last week. “The coaches, we’re going to do a lot of self-scout, what we’re doing, personnel packages, where we can improve our football team, what areas we need to improve the most on, whether it’s third-down conversions, red zone, our first-down play calling, our red-zone defense, our third-down defense, all that stuff.”
What kind of tendencies did they look at? They’re not going to tell us, of course. But perhaps they are looking at their run-pass ratio on first down. In their first six games they ran on first down 53 percent of the time. Against the Bucs they ran on 42 percent of their first-down plays. To be sure, they had to pass a lot more in the last game because they fell behind 24-0. But they might examine it to see if passing more on first down is a formula that will work.
They also might look at their formations on first down. They have lined up with one running back on 142 of their 177 first and ten plays. Should they vary that more and use a fullback more on first and ten? Or perhaps throw in a wrinkle and go with five wide receivers?
As far as game planning for the Patriots, they face a tall task in trying to devise a plan that will beat Tom Brady and company, the consensus best team in the league. In general terms, the offense will need to run the ball and/or control it with the short passing game to keep Brady off of the field. Defensively, they will have to make sure tackles after catches and try to find some way to keep Rob Gronkowski from running over and through them.
All of that is easier said than done. It’s pretty much what all seven of the Patriots’ victims this year have wanted to do but the efforts have been futile. New England has outscored its opposition by 116 points, an average of nearly 17 per game.
The biggest challenge for the Redskins may be mental. The Patriots are like Tiger Woods in his prime. They seem to have the opposition intimidated, knowing that if they make one mistake Brady will make them pay for it. And playing while you’re afraid to make a mistake is the perfect setup to make a ton of errors. If the Redskins are going to stay competitive, they need to not be afraid to try to win.