In a disappointing loss Monday night to the Cowboys, the Redskins offense seemed to play it safe and not take chances. Especially on a night when the Washington defense produced three turnovers, fans and coaches alike voiced displeasure with the ineffectiveness of the offense.
"Throwing the ball, we had some shots available," head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. "We just didn’t convert on some of the shots that we had."
Paired with Gruden's comments, some of DeSean Jackson's actions during the game Monday night are worth revisiting. On more than one occasion, Jackson could be seen throwing his hands in the air after running a deep route and gaining separation from the defender. There's no way to know, but more shots to Jackson may have resulted in more points, as the lone TD of the game came on a deep throw from Kirk Cousins to Jackson.
Looking at Pro Football Focus, Cousins grades out as one of the most reluctant deep passers in the NFL this season. Less than 11 percent of all Cousins' passes travel more than 20 yards in the air, and of 46 attempts of 20 yards or more, Cousins has completed just 11.
"If you put the film on, you’ll see guys, we took some shots, just we didn’t take them," Gruden said, "whether it was pressure forced us into throwing a check-down or what have you, the quarterback couldn’t see it."
For much of the season Jackson was hurt and the Redskins lacked a real deep threat. With that in mind, and perhaps to protect Cousins from turning the ball over, the Redskins employed a conservative offense. Now that Jackson is back healthy and showing he can still get deep, not to mention a moribund run game, it appears Gruden and the Redskins offensive staff wants the ball to go deep, it just isn't happening with much frequency.
"There were some shots to be had out there," Gruden said of the Cowboys game. "We just didn’t convert."
It's also worth noting that Cousins was sacked twice in the Redskins first three plays, and like many quarterbacks, his passing numbers tend to suffer when under heavy pressure. For the season, PFF gives Cousins a -11.2 grade on passes under pressure.
"If you have pressure coming up the A-gap and pressure in the quarterback’s face, it’s hard for him to see down the field and throw dimes 50-60 yards down the field," the coach said. "So we have to do a better job of protection and making sure we’re going to the right people and stout inside so we can give our quarterback vision down the field."
Kirk Cousins has a big enough arm to go downfield, and the weapons to catch it. So what's keeping the Redskins offense so conservative? The playcalling? The quarterback? The offensive line? The run game? A combination? Let us know what you think in the comments.