Vikings need more from red zone offense

Vikings need more from red zone offense

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Vikings have been struggling to put the ball in the end zone when they get within striking distance for most of the season. It finally caught up with them last weekend against Washington.

The Vikings had to settle for field goals on their first three possessions despite driving inside the 10-yard line each time. Instead of putting some serious cushion between themselves and the Redskins, they led just 9-0 and allowed Robert Griffin III to hang around in a game Washington won 38-26.

It's been a recurring problem this year for the Vikings, who rank 17th in the league in scoring touchdowns inside the 20. Perhaps the only thing more troubling for the Vikings on Sunday was how often do-it-all star Percy Harvin was watching from the sideline during those critical plays.

Harvin wasn't on the field for five of the nine plays the Vikings ran in those three possessions.

``That's just the way the personnel groups went and that was part of our plan,'' offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said, ``which we're not proud of.''

Harvin leads the NFL in receptions and has emerged as an early MVP candidate while becoming an indispensable component of both the offense and special teams. Musgrave has shown impressive creativity in how he uses Harvin this season, lining him up in the backfield for handoffs, splitting him out wide to go down the field and lining him up in the slot for bubble screens.

So if the Vikings (4-2) are going to find a solution to their red zone difficulties this week against Arizona (4-2), Harvin will likely have to play a prominent role in the game plan.

``Hoping to use him down there both run game and play action when he's in the backfield,'' Musgrave said. ``So we just want to make those plays work better next time or call them at the right time like we didn't on Sunday.''

Blair Walsh kicked field goals on all three of those drives on Sunday, and the Vikings scored just two touchdowns in seven trips inside the 20 against the Redskins. So it's no surprise that has been the big focus in practice this week as they prepare to face a stingy Cardinals defense.

``A lot of things went wrong, both conceptually and also execution-wise,'' Musgrave said. ``We've really doubled our efforts. We always like to work hard and leave no stone unturned, but this week, it's definitely a point of emphasis so we can take advantage of those opportunities because those take hard work to get down there in the first place.''

The Vikings also saw the Redskins become galvanized after their defense made three straight stands. Instead of being able to put the game away early and make it easier on their defense to attack RGIII, Washington was buoyed by its defense.

``It was definitely frustrating,'' Harvin said. ``You could potentially come away at 21-0 and completely shut the game off. I think that would have changed their whole game plan. But we didn't get that done. And it came back on us.''

The Redskins were also able to take away tight end Kyle Rudolph, one of Christian Ponder's favorite targets. Ponder said there were a few plays he would have liked to have back on those first three series, including an early throw to Devin Aromashodu on the first drive and failing to check the ball down to an open Adrian Peterson on the second. He said there's no need to panic at 4-2, just refine what they're doing.

``We're not going to change our red zone scheme. We just have to do what we're doing better and get better at it,'' Ponder said. ``We're not going to put extra focus on it, obviously we need to improve and we need to focus on that, but we're not going to try anything crazy different.''

The Cardinals come in having lost two straight games after a 4-0 start, and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier doesn't want to see his offense sputter in scoring range again and give another opponent reason to believe it has a chance.

``When that happens, when you get thwarted like we did in the red zone, you look at everything,'' Frazier said. ``What we're calling, the plays that we're running, how we're running those plays.

`We really stress not kicking field goals and trying to get touchdowns, even if we get one touchdown in one of those three situations, it's probably going to affect the way they're going to call the game on the other side at that point. But it didn't happen, so yes, we're going to go through it with a fine toothed comb on what we could have done better.''

NOTES: RB Adrian Peterson (ankle), WR Jerome Simpson (lower back) and DE Jared Allen (groin) were all listed as probable on the injury report. Peterson did not practice the first two days as a precaution, but returned to practice on Friday. Simpson was able to practice all week after missing last week with numbness in his leg caused by a lower back issue. Coach Leslie Frazier said both are expected to start on Sunday.


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Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

Associated Press

Barry Trotz's departure reminiscent of Joe Gibbs' resignation in 1993

The sudden resignation of Barry Trotz as the coach of the Stanley Cup champion Capitals is the most stunning Washington coaching departure since Joe Gibbs retired from the Redskins about 13 months after the team won its third Super Bowl in a 10-year span. 

In the years leading up to Gibbs’ departure, there were some rumblings that he might leave. As early as 1986, John Madden said that Gibbs was a candidate to burn out of the profession early. During the 1989 season, Gibbs said that he was contemplating retirement, but he retracted his words the next day. In 1990, columnist and TV pregame panelist Will McDonough reported that Gibbs would retire after the season. Retirement rumors popped up again in early 1992, just two days before Super Bowl XXVI. Again, Gibbs denied them. The Redskins easily beat the Bills to claim their third championship in 10 years and there was no apparent reason why such a successful coach would think about leaving. 

Redskins fans had become so used to hearing the Gibbs retirement reports that many just started to tune them out. So on the morning of March 5, 1993, when reports of Gibbs’ resignation as coach started to circulate, many were in a state of denial.

That turned out to be wishful thinking. The fans were given a hard jolt of reality when the team announced a noon press conference. 

There the coach was on TV, as promised, confirming the news. He said it was a family decision. 

“Every year, we get away and talk about it,” Gibbs said. “We always reach the same conclusion. This year, it was different. The boys didn’t encourage me one way or another, but they understood when I told them what I was thinking. I think Pat’s happier than anyone. This isn’t an easy lifestyle for a coach’s wife. The coach is the guy who stands up and hears everyone tell him how great he is. The wife is the one waiting at home alone while the coach is spending every night at the office. 

“I wanted more time with my family. I wanted more time with my sons. I look at this as a window of opportunity with them and I couldn’t let it pass.” 

Although he has been diagnosed with a condition that has caused some pain and some difficulty in sleeping, Gibbs said that health was not a factor in his decision. 

Richie Petitbon, the team’s longtime defensive coordinator, was named the team’s new head coach. It had to be one of the shortest job interviews ever. 

“I get a call from Mr. Cooke who tells me Joe has retired and that he wants me to coach the Redskins,” Petitbon said. “After I picked myself up off the floor, I said yes.” 

After hearing the news, most Redskins fans had to pick themselves up as well.  

Petitbon lasted only one season as the head coach and the other eight head coaches who followed, including Gibbs himself in a four-year second stint, have been unable to get the Redskins back to the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, the Caps’ head coaching job is widely expected to go to Todd Reirden, who was Trotz’s top assistant just as Pettitbon was Gibbs’. 

Washington fans hope that the Caps have better fortune with Trotz’s successors. 

More Redskins

- 53-man roster: Roster projection--Offense
- 53-man roster: Best players 25 or younger

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler


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Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents, and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices, they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 

Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 170 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

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