Change was needed in Washington D.C. after a 3-13 season from the Redskins. That change came in the form of a new coaching staff, as Mike Shanahan’s tumultuous relationship with Robert Griffin III came to an end with his dismissal and the hiring of Jay Gruden. Surprisingly, Jim Haslett, whose defense gave up 478 points, kept his job as the defensive coordinator. Gruden, previously the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, promoted Redskins tight ends coach Sean McVay to offensive coordinator. At just 28 years old, McVay is the youngest coordinator in the league.
The Redskins had one of the strangest 3-13 seasons in NFL history. They actually outgained opponents on the season by 250 yards, but big plays and turnovers were too much to overcome. Even though the Redskins outgained opponents, they allowed 5.7 yards per play, which ranked 27th in the league, and gave up 7.6 yards per pass, the worst mark in the league.
The offense was third in yards per carry and 10th in third down conversion rate. The defense was fourth in preventing third down conversions. Yet the Redskins gave up 29.9 points per game and their mark of 3.7 TDs allowed per game was the worst in the league. Statistically, the Redskins probably should have been a lot better than they were.
To pinpoint a single reason as to why the Redskins were so terrible is a fool’s errand, but a lot of it had to do with the relationship between Shanahan and Griffin. The two were always at odds about everything, from play calling to how RGIII’s preseason was handled, to things that probably never made it out into the media. Coming off the torn ACL, Griffin ran 34 fewer times last season and didn’t seem to have the same explosive ability. His season-long run was just 26 yards after taking one 76 yards in 2012. Griffin also regressed as a passer, going from a 65.6 percent completion percentage with a 20/5 TD/INT ratio to 60.1 percent with a 16/12 INT ratio this past season.
Can the Redskins turn it around with Shanahan out of the picture and Griffin another year removed from the ACL injury? Oddsmakers at Sportsbook.ag are certainly expecting bigger things as the Redskins are set at 7.5 with the over juiced at -125. The under is sitting at -105. 5Dimes.eu has a 7 up with the over at -115 and the under at -105.
Lines courtesy of CG Technologies:
|4||New York Giants (Thu)||-1.5|
|8||@ Dallas (Mon)||+4.5|
|12||@ San Francisco||+8.5|
|15||@ New York Giants||+3.5|
The Redskins draw that NFC West and AFC South this season, with a lot of scheduling quirks. They also get the Buccaneers and Vikings as part of their last-place schedule. The final three weeks of the schedule feature division games. The Redskins are favored in five of the 15 lined games, all of which are at home.
There are a handful of scheduling quirks for the Redskins with two Monday night games, a Thursday game, and a Saturday game in Week 16 against the Eagles. There are two road back-to-backs, but the toughest one is definitely in Weeks 12 and 13 when the Redskins make the cross-country flight to San Francisco and then go back on the road to Indianapolis to take on a quality Colts team.
The bye comes at a good time for the Redskins on the heels of a back-to-back road trip and before an important home game against Tampa Bay before the aforementioned San Francisco trip.
Why bet the over?
From a raw numbers standpoint, it’s a little bit surprising how bad the Redskins were last season and that should lead to some positive regression in their overall performance. The -144 point differential was the worst mark for the Redskins since 1961 when they were -218 en route to a 1-12-1 season, but the 478 points allowed was a franchise record. The offense ranked ninth in yardage and 18th in yards allowed, so it really doesn’t add up. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was given a vote of confidence by new coach Jay Gruden and the Redskins brought in a lot of defensive free agents to try and fix the problems.
Among the free agents, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and veteran corner Tracy Porter would seem to have the most impact. Hatcher racked up 11 sacks for the Cowboys last season and has played well over the last three seasons since he became a full-time starter. Porter had 53 tackles, 13 pass breakups, and a couple of picks for the Raiders last season. Another player to watch is Akeem Jordan, who started 10 games for the Chiefs at linebacker. David Amerson looked like the rookie that he was in 2013 and a veteran guy like Porter opposite long-time corner DeAngelo Hall adds depth and another guy to mentor Amerson.
The offense should get a shot in the arm from some new leadership and a more content Robert Griffin III. Andre Roberts was the main free agent signing, which adds depth to a receiving corps that relied heavily on Pierre Garcon. Garcon caught more than one-third of the team’s 355 completions last season. 2013 first-rounder Jordan Reed had 45 receptions in just nine games, which makes him a potential breakout candidate this season. Griffin took eight more sacks in two fewer games and didn’t make plays with his legs nearly as much as he did during his rookie season. The athleticism and potential are still there if Griffin gets the green light to take off and run and it’ll be interesting to see how Gruden and McVay play it.
It seemed like the Redskins quit last season during the eight-game losing streak that carried through the end of the season. Their 3-13 record may be misleading simply on that basis alone. It’s clear that Shanahan had lost the locker room and that carried over to the field as well. From a talent standpoint, there is some potential on this team to really exceed expectations, especially in the NFC East, which has a lot of inconsistent teams.
Why bet the under?
The Redskins may have quit, but they were healthy most of the season. They only lost 22 man games to injury and had 13 players start all 16 games, including all five offensive linemen. Injuries aren’t to blame, though Shanahan sat RGIII for the final three games of the season as a precautionary measure. The Redskins didn’t have a draft pick until the middle of the second round, so they won’t get the instant impact other teams will from their first-round picks. The Redskins did very little to improve the offensive side of the ball in free agency, which puts a lot of pressure on Pierre Garcon to repeat his 2013 season.
What if this is the RGIII we can expect the rest of his career? If he’s going to be hesitant to make plays with his legs and try to become more of a pocket passer, that’s not going to work. His decision making skills were almost non-existent last season when he threw the ball, as evidenced by the drop in completion percentage and the big spike in interceptions. Not only that, but the Redskins were 24th in yards per pass. This team goes as RGIII goes and he didn’t go very far last season.
The Redskins gave up 53 rushes of 10 yards or more, which tied for the sixth-most. They were 27th in completion percentage allowed, as opponents completed 65.6 percent of their passes. Without targets in the red zone, the Redskins scored touchdowns on just 52 percent of their red zone possessions, while the opposition was successful 63.33 percent of the time. Given the lack of impact offseason additions, the only hope for the Redskins is the coaching change to alter these numbers.
Pick: Under 7.5 (-105) (Sportsbook)
The Redskins will be better and the toxic environment created by the Shanahan-Griffin rift is gone. But, the Giants are also a team due for improvement after using stadium vendors as offensive linemen last season because of injuries. The Cowboys are still a hit or miss team and the Eagles look improved. Add in the NFC West and a AFC South that is expected to be improved this season and the Redskins really have to make big strides to improve by five games to cash this over ticket.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.