A new head coach did little to change the fortunes of the Washington Redskins in 2014. Jay Gruden’s first year at the helm did not go as planned and there was even talk of firing him very early in the season. Three different quarterbacks started at least four games and none of them had much success. The Redskins finished 29th in point differential and did everything they could to earn that 4-12 record.
Entering the upcoming season, it’s hard to say that much has changed. The Redskins brought in some bona fide talent to help the defense, but the lackluster offense largely remains the same. Fifth overall pick Brandon Scherff could certainly be an impact player on the offensive line, but the skill positions and the quarterback situations have not been addressed in the offseason. Kirk Cousins remains the subject of trade rumors and the Redskins picked up the fifth-year option in Robert Griffin III’s contract.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Redskins signed Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton in order to improve against the run and also signed Chris Culliver to help out the beleaguered secondary. The secondary was arguably the biggest area of need for the team. Despite facing the second-fewest pass attempts, the Redskins were 24th in passing yards against, 32nd in touchdowns against, and only picked off seven passes. They were 30th in net yards per attempt. Big plays came early and often against this pass defense. Washington’s defense allowed 33 pass plays of 25 yards or more.
Offensively, the Redskins did some good things. Despite having the second-worst average starting field position in the league, Washington was 13th in yards. The problem was that they could not convert those yards into points. The Redskins finished 26th in points and posted a -137 point differential. Their 18/18 TD/INT ratio as a team was one of the worst in the league. The Redskins gained more than 410 yards in a game just four times and they lost three of those four games.
A lot of things need to change for the Redskins. More than anything, the culture needs to change in this organization. The players quit on Mike Shanahan and the front office nearly pulled the cord very early on Gruden and his staff. The end result has been a toxic atmosphere, proliferated by owner Dan Snyder, who is vilified around the league for his stance on the Redskins name and logo. That has nothing to do with the performance on the field, but it is another example of the lack of consistency with ownership, the front office, and the product on the field.
Oddsmakers at Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas do not have high hopes for the Washington Redskins this season. Their win total opened at 6. Only Oakland, Tennessee, and Jacksonville were lined lower.
|3||@ New York Giants (Thurs)||+5|
|6||@ New York Jets||+2|
|9||@ New England||+8.5|
|12||New York Giants||+1|
The schedule almost doesn’t matter for the Redskins because of the talent gap between them and the other teams. But, looking at the schedule is essential for picking a side on the win total. The first thing to notice is that the Redskins have two sets of three road games in four weeks. They are only favored once in their 15 lined games and that spot comes on the heels of one of those stretches.
That line against New Orleans in Week 10 is certainly interesting, mostly because it is a good indication of what the oddsmakers think of the Saints this season. The Redskins do have a good bye week and play against the NFC South, which could result in some upset victories. The Redskins are unfortunate in that their last place games are against St. Louis and Chicago instead of teams like Tennessee and Cleveland.
Why bet the over?
Jay Gruden is an offensive-minded guy and the offense, though it regressed from the previous season, was serviceable. Given all of the quarterback inefficiency that the Redskins faced throughout the season, the fact that they had a semblance of an offense was a silver lining. For the second straight season, turnovers were the biggest problem for the offense. Turnovers can be correctable, and, more importantly, they can regress. The Redskins are going to need more consistent play at the skill positions, but it’s hard to see a team having over 30 turnovers for three straight seasons.
If you’re a believer in untapped potential, there has to be some left for Robert Griffin III. After a very good rookie season, Griffin has not been able to replicate the success of his 2012 season. There are some silver linings to his 2014 performance, however. Griffin completed 68.7 percent of his passes. The biggest problem he faced was that he was always under duress. The Redskins signal caller was sacked 33 times in nine games. That’s unacceptable, but it’s not necessarily an indictment on Griffin. When he had time to throw, he was accurate.
Alfred Morris developed into a very good running back. Morris ran for 4.1 yards per carry and over 1,000 yards. While the Redskins offensive line struggled mightily protecting the quarterback, they did a pretty good job of opening up holes in the running game. Even though Roy Helu left for Oakland, depth is not a problem at running back with Silas Redd and Matt Jones, a third-rounder.
At wide receiver, the Redskins have some talent with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Garcon and Jackson combined for 124 catches for over 1,900 yards and nine touchdowns. That’s while having a revolving door of quarterbacks. If somebody can step up and take over the quarterback position, there’s some promise here with depth like Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed.
The Redskins were a disaster defensively under Jim Haslett. Haslett has been replaced by Joe Barry, a longtime linebackers coach in the college ranks and the NFL. The addition of some more meat up front should help against the run with Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton. More importantly, Barry can coach up the linebackers and get them to fill gaps and understand coverage schemes better.
Why bet the under?
A ship with no captain is going to sink. The Washington Redskins have no captain. Robert Griffin III has not been the same since the torn ACL. Kirk Cousins is not an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. Overall, the options at quarterback are underwhelming to say the least. Griffin is constantly at odds with the coaching staff, no matter who is on it, and Cousins wants out in the worst way. The system may help these guys put up some stats, but there is no leader among this group. The lack of leadership on the roster as a whole is definitely concerning.
The Redskins gave up 24 or more points in 11 of their 16 games. They lost 10 of them. Nine of Washington’s 12 losses were by double digits. That’s not a team on the cusp of improving. That’s a team that has a chance to get even worse. The Redskins struggled with field position and special teams. They gave up 58 sacks. They don’t generate many negative plays of their own. What’s there to like about this team?
The Redskins had a lot of picks in the draft but really failed to address the biggest needs of the team. It was just fine to draft Brandon Scherff with the first rounder because he has a chance to be a 10-year starter in the NFL with good health. After that, the Redskins draft was very underwhelming. This front office has not done a good job uncovering talent.
Speaking of talent, the Redskins brought in some talent on the defensive line, but the back seven is still a trainwreck. Brian Orakpo moved on, leaving yet another hole at linebacker, and the Redskins have no answers for other teams’ passing attacks. In the NFC East, the Redskins are forced to have a good defense and they don’t. Their six division games could very easily mark six of the losses needed towards the under on this win total. Not to mention, Washington is favored once. They need a minimum of five upsets against the number just to push.
Pick: Under 6
This is one of the strongest picks so far. The Redskins may have some nice offensive stats, but they have no red zone options to turn three into seven and that’s going to be a problem once again with a poor defense. Joe Barry’s promotion to defensive coordinator may have a beneficial effect, but this team desperately lacks playmakers on defense outside of Ryan Kerrigan. They still do. Strengthening an average run defense with Paea and Knighton is fine. Ignoring the pass defense is not.
-END OF 2015 PREDICTION-
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.