The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.
Over-simplification can be dangerous, but at the same time, some problems boil down to a root cause.
The Redskins play-action pass game looked bad in 2018, and if you listen to head coach Jay Gruden, much of that might have hinged on the ability of his tight ends to run block.
Back in March Gruden opened up about some of his team's offensive struggles in 2018 and the coach pointed out that his tight end rotation varied greatly on if the team was going to run or pass. Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis tended to come off the field in clear run situations, while Jeremy Sprinkle didn't get many snaps on pass plays.
As the season went on, that became obvious for opposing defense.
"Your tendencies are probably through the roof when you throw, that's what we're trying to guard against," Gruden said at the NFL League Meetings. "We got to figure out ways to be balanced in all personnel group settings and make sure that's really what we're studying in the offseason and moving forward how we can adapt our running game to make sure we have the equal amount of runs in each personnel group with each person in that group."
Sure those quotes are a few months old now, but nothing has been done to change the personnel. Reed, Davis and Sprinkle populate the tight end depth chart, and it doesn't seem likely there will be significant change to any of the three player's game.
Based on that, something else must change.
The Redskins either need to adapt their run style to something where Reed and/or Davis can be on the field. Or use Sprinkle more in the pass game.
Neither of those options seem particularly likely.
What could happen is less two tight sets for the Washington offense, and less dependency on that look.
In his remarks from March, Gruden hinted that the Redskins could deploy their 11 personnel more often, going with three wideouts and one tight, instead of two tight ends on the field. That would require health and productivity from the Redskins wideouts, which hasn't happened in the last two seasons.
In a way, the discussion of a blocking tight end is very much an oversimplification of the Redskins 2018 offensive woes. The team ranked 29th in the NFL in points scored, and obviously, that lack of production did not stem from one position.
At the same time, however, the lack of a tight end that can run block and show up in the pass game creates a series of other problems. The team can't always run with their best receiving threats on the field, they can't pull off play-action because the run threat doesn't always emerge, and all of that snowballs.
The little things add up in the NFL. Just ask Jay Gruden.
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