Since General Manager Scot McCloughan was hired in early January, he’s been busy retooling the Redskins’ roster via free agency and preparing for the 2015 draft. So far, he’s received mostly positive reviews. But his work is far from done. In the coming weeks, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine 25 issues that must be addressed as the offseason kicks into high gear.
Will the Redskins improve their turnover margin?
It’s become cliché to talk about turnovers as a huge factor in determining the outcomes of NFL games but it’s that way because it’s true. Last year teams that had a turnover differential of plus-two or better in a game won went 98-22, a winning percentage of .816. You won’t find many stats that correlate to wins as strongly. The Redskins were minus-12 over the course of the season, 30th in the NFL. A simple fix to the team’s string of double-digit loss seasons would be to flip that turnover ratio the other way around. What will they have to do to accomplish that?
Tandler: The Redskins suffered on both sides of the turnover equation last year. They had just 19 takeaways; only six teams had fewer. And they gave it away 31 times, more than all but three other teams. They were pretty even in fumbles, losing 13 balls on the ground and recovering 12. So you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that interceptions are the problem. Washington intercepted just seven passes and the three quarterbacks combined to throw 18 picks. There are legitimate hopes that the defense can pick off some more passes this year. They added Chris Culliver (7 career interceptions) and Dashon Goldson (15) to the secondary, signed three free agents on the line to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback and an edge rusher could be added as a top draft pick. On the offensive side, half of the interceptions were thrown by Kirk Cousins; it is likely that he will be sent to the bench before he has a chance to throw that many in 2015. Robert Griffin III (6 INT last year) and Colt McCoy (3) also need some work in ball protection as well. But it will take more than just fixing turnovers. Going back to the start here, of the 22 games lost last year by a team with a plus-two takeaway margin, the Redskins lost two of them. They have to take advantage of their opportunities but creating more of them would be a good start.
El-Bashir: The Redskins’ best chance to turn around the turnover ratio is to force more of them. Assuming Griffin is the starter and that he stays healthy and in the lineup (huge assumptions, I know), I don’t expect throwing interceptions to be a problem. Running back Alfred Morris, meantime, has done a better job of protecting the football. Last year, in fact, Morris was not dinged for a lost fumble after coughing up a combined seven in 2012 and 2013. If those two can take care of the ball, that’s a good start. For me, though, reversing the turnover trend is going to come down to the defense intercepting more passes and forcing more fumbles. Last year, the unit produced a measly seven picks—tied for the second fewest in the NFL. As Tandler noted, Culliver, DeAngelo Hall and Goldson will need to snag their share. But the Redskins will also need some production from sources like cornerback David Amerson and safety Phillip Thomas, players who were drafted, in part, for their ball hawking skills. In 39 career games, however, they’ve combined for two interceptions (both by Amerson in 2013). If Amerson and Thomas earn significant roles on the team this year, that’s got to change. New secondary coach Perry Fewell has a history of coaching units that produce good interception numbers, so perhaps his tutelage will help. Ultimately, though, it’s going to come down to guys on defense making plays when opportunities are presented.
25 questions series
- Who will replace Brian Orakpo?
- Can Pierre Garçon bounce back to his 2013 production?
- What will the Redskins do at right tackle?
- Can Hatcher put up double-digit sacks?
- Do the Redskins need more depth at running back?
- Will the rushing attack look different with Callahan?
- What can the Redskins expect from Jordan Reed?
- What to expect from the draft class of 2014
- What will the cornerback depth chart look like?
- A challenger for Kai Forbath?
- Who will start at right guard?
- Are the Redskins set at safety?
- How long will it take Scot McCloughan to build a winner?
- What should we expect from Joe Barry’s defense?
- Should the Redskins find a new kick returner?
- What will a successful 2015 season look like?
- Can we expect more special teams improvement?
- Who will be the third down back?
- What will the QB depth chart look like
- Can RG3 hold on to the starting QB job?