The buzz about Ron Rivera taking over the Redskins is real and also justified. He has a track record of success, both as a player and as a coach, and his serious style that emphasizes competition appears to be just what the franchise needs.
Do not forget, though, that Rivera is trying to turn around one of the league's most limited teams, one that's coming off of a particularly grim season. Expecting him, his new staff and his reshaped roster to fix everything in 2020 is unrealistic.
That said, it does feel reasonable to want the Redskins to adhere to the following motto in Rivera's first year: Double the win total from 2019 and cut in half some of the uglier stats.
Obviously, if they accomplish the first task, they'll go from 3-13 to 6-10. That wouldn't mean playoffs but it would mean progress.
As for the second task, what are some reasonable stats to ask the Redskins to be a lot better in? Here are three areas where if they're able to cut their 2019 finish in half, they'll find themselves in a lot more games.
Third down defense
2019 finish: 32nd (allowed conversions 48.9% of the time)
2020 goal: 16th (Seahawks finished 16th in 2019 at 38.4%)
The defense, thanks to the arrivals of Rivera, Jack Del Rio and Chase Young, is already starting to receive attention as a potential breakout unit. However, while the front is loaded, linebacker still seems to have a pretty short ceiling and corner is a mystery as of now.
So, those envisioning the Burgundy and Gold among the sport's top defenses may want to reel in those hopes and instead focus on getting this key number to a league-average spot.
Yes, that will feel inadequate and conservative to some, but take this into consideration: If the Redskins matched Seattle's 16th-best third down defense in 2019, they would've given up 24 fewer conversions overall (87 compared to 111). That comes out to 1.5 fewer conversions on a per-game basis, and even just one or two more stops on a Sunday can completely alter the score, time of possession, etc.
The pass rush should be a lot scarier in 2020, but remember that coverage and tackling in space matter just as much on third downs, and it's unclear if the Redskins really improved in those places. That's why going from literally the worst in the NFL to just fine should be the aim here. Don't underestimate how crucial that would be.
2019 finish: 32nd (2,812 yards)
2020 goal: 16th (Jaguars finished 16th in 2019 with 3,760 yards)
Coming up with something for the offense to shoot for is tough. For example, wanting them to cut their final placement in scoring in half (from 32nd to 16th) (those numbers are starting to come up a lot, huh?) means asking them to add an additional six points to each contest. That's not exactly fair or likely.
That's why passing yards is the designated metric, and 3,760 yards is a completely appropriate total to look for out of Dwayne Haskins. If he's able to start all 16 games for Washington, then he'd have to throw for an average of 235 yards to get there.
Now, passing yards can be a very flawed stat at times. A signal caller with a rolling running game, for instance, will finish with a lower output that week than another QB who's piling up garbage completions in a blowout loss. Therefore, this should be far from the only way to measure the offense and Haskins in 2020.
Even so, it is a milestone worth working toward, because it would signal that Haskins is handling more of the load and the group as a whole is more well-rounded.
Red zone touchdowns
2019 finish: 27th (scored TDs 48.7% of the time)
2020 goal: 13th (Saints finished 13th in 2019 at 59.3%)
Just so you know, the Redskins didn't finish last in every stat last season. When it came to capping drives in the red zone with six points rather than three, they weren't the worst — but they were still quite bad.
There are factors on offense that should help them be more effective in 2020 from the 20 and in, though, including Haskins gaining experience there, Scott Turner's influence on the play calling, and more versatile options to turn to like Antonio Gibson, Antonio Gandy-Golden and JD McKissic.
Of the three areas in this story, this may be the hardest leap to pull off. But if the Redskins can make it while also getting off the field more on third downs and featuring even just a decent passing attack, 2020 will be a lot more pleasant than its predecessor.
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