The Redskins (4-2) are perched at the top of the NFC East and have wins in-hand over conference foes from Green Bay, Carolina and Dallas. That's all very important and means they're in a sweet spot as the halfway point of the season nears.
With that being said, for this team to keep that division lead and also begin to feel like it can be one that not only makes it to January but does damage in January, there are a few key areas on offense they really must improve in.
Let's take a look at three such areas.
Area No. 1: End-of-half execution
The Redskins' last two wins came down to a defensive stand near their end zone and a field goal that very satisfyingly, but very fortunately, smashed off a FedEx Field upright.
Those finishes may not have been so close, however, if the offense did a better job executing at the end of the first and second half.
Against the Panthers, Alex Smith and the offense started a drive on the visiting team's 33-yard line with 56 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
So, the QB could've thrown the ball to Jay Gruden on the sideline, a fan in the upper deck or Trent Williams' shoe Dustin Hopkins would've had a 50-yard field goal attempt at the very least.
Instead, Smith was docked 10 yards for intentional grounding, a penalty the group couldn't overcome. Eventually, Tress Way had to punt. No points.
Against the Cowboys, Smith and Co. began a possession with a minute left on their own 25-yard line after a touchback and armed with all three timeouts. They advanced the ball to Dallas' 44 by the time the clock reached 21 seconds, but the QB then tossed three straight incomplete passes.
With wind being a factor, Gruden chose to go with a Hail Mary instead of a Hopkins FG attempt on fourth down and, for the second week in a row, no points were added to the scoreboard when they very well could've been.
That's not to mention Smith's questionable scramble in the fourth quarter that nearly gave Washington's rival the break it needed to send the contest to OT.
On Wednesday, the signal caller acknowledged those "missed opportunities" and that they need to be fixed. With the way this campaign's unfolding, this squad needs to capitalize on as many scoring opportunities as possible, and that starts with them being sharper on those precious possessions when the clock's trickling down.
Area No. 2: First down play variation
Adrian Peterson has probably been the 2018 Redskins' biggest difference-maker, so as long as he's healthy, Gruden really can't go wrong when it comes to giving Peterson the ball. But perhaps Gruden could be a little less predictable about when he decides to get No. 26 and the other running backs involved.
On 169 first downs this year, Washington has called a run play 100 times and a pass play 66 times (to go along with three snaps that ended in a scramble), according to NFLsavant.com. That equates to a 59/41 run-pass ratio.
That makes the Redskins one of just 11 teams in the NFL that runs more on first down than they throw, and their split is right up there with the Seahawks for most severe in pro football.
What's behind those numbers?
"I think Adrian has been doing a pretty good job of getting some yards on first down," the head coach said Wednesday. "And I think we've had some opportunities to throw the ball but when we are in a lead like we had then, we've had success running the ball so it’s nice to stick to it sometimes."
"I think the intent here is to be a physical football team," Gruden added.
For much of his tenure, Gruden has been criticized for throwing too often, so this shift in philosophy is refreshing and, for the most part, effective. Peterson and the O-line can set the tone, the ground game allows them to own the time of possession fight and it also makes second and third downs easier.
Still, though, as opponents pick up on this tendency, mixing in a few play action calls after a fresh set of downs could be the way to pick up some chunk plays the Redskins so badly need and also get Smith going a little more. Gruden doesn't need to totally readjust because, again, the approach has them at 4-2, but changing that ratio just a bit could pay off.
Area No. 3: Finishing in the red zone
There are some areas in football where a 50-percent success rate is excellent, like on third down. On the other hand, there are areas where getting it done half the time is discouraging, such red zone TD rate.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, they have the discouraging 50-percent rate going right now.
The burgundy and gold have only scored six on half of their trips inside the 20 thus far, which ranks them 24th in the NFL.
That rate won't climb unless Smith picks it up, starts delivering more accurate throws and feels more comfortable in the pocket. He could also use some help from guys like Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson, two pass catchers who were supposed to dominate near the goal line but who, so far, have just one TD between them.
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