Week 1 Loss Shows Washington Redskins Have A Lot To Improve

Sep 12, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) drops back to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 12, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) drops back to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Redskins’ loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was a bad loss. However, did it show the team what they need to work on in order to be successful moving forward?

The Washington Redskins did not look good in their 2016 home opener. Period. While it was only the first game of the season, the future is not looking bright for the Redskins.

The problem with this team is that they have so many problems. Their flaws showed themselves big time this past Monday against the Steelers.

One consistent issue that the Redskins have had for awhile now is their run defense. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, the Redskins’ defense ranked 31st in rushing yards per attempt in 2015, allowing opposing teams an average of 4.8 yards per carry. They also ranked 26th in the league in rushing yards allowed, giving up 1,962 yards to opposing teams’ running backs.

This problem was accentuated during the game on Monday night.  According to ESPN.com, the Redskins were basically at the same place where they were at last year, allowing an average of 4.9 yards per rush on 30 rushing attempts. The defense also allowed DeAngelo Williams to run all over them. With 26 carriers, he was able to pick up 143 yards and 2 touchdowns. Even though this is a small sample size, Washington’s run defense appears to have remained as ineffective as it was last year.

Another weakness that reared its ugly head in the season opener was the Redskins’ own lack of a running game. The team only rushed the ball 12 times, split up mostly between Matt Jones and Chris Thompson. Those 12 rushes led to a measly 55 yards, including a 1 yard TD by Thompson. In contrast to these poor stats, the Skins did average 4.6 yards per carry. This begs the question of whether or not the team ran the ball enough. Did the coaching staff truly give these inexperienced backs a chance to show the team what they can do?

The lack of a running game is especially surprising since the passing game was not putting up points. Now it’s not like Kirk Cousins necessarily played poorly or didn’t have the right targets to throw to. On the contrary, he played OK, throwing the ball 43 times for 329 yards and 2 interceptions. The problem was that passing was all the Redskins’ offense did. And when a team is this one dimensional, scoring touchdowns becomes nearly impossible to do, and they are more prone to turnovers. A big reason why Washington lost is because they ended up kicking field goals, while the Steelers were scoring touchdowns.

This lopsided choice in play-calling brings me to another problem that was huge during the season opener. Poor coaching decisions. Jay Gruden and company made some mistakes against the Steelers. This uneven play calling was only a minor one.

The more significant, and more public, error that the coaching staff made was who they had their cornerbacks cover. Out of Ben Roethlisberger‘s three touchdown passes, two of them were thrown to Antonio Brown. He is the Steelers’ number one receiver, and one of the best in the league. So, logically, shouldn’t the Redskins have put their best corner on him, especially if he too was one of the best in the league?

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Well, they decided to not have Josh Norman lock off Brown. Instead, they put 2 year NFL cornerback Bashaud Breeland on Brown for the majority of the game. Breeland is not, by any means, a bad corner. He was just way out of his league guarding one of the top five wide receivers in the NFL. There were some throws that Breeland was behind on and could’ve potentially made a play for. But there were also some throws made by one of the best quarterbacks in the league to one of the best receivers in the league that someone inexperienced like Breeland simply couldn’t cover.

Jay Gruden backed up his decision to not put Norman in single coverage against Brown by essentially saying that he didn’t want to give future opponents a chance to study what Norman in single coverage would look like. He may have had this Sunday’s game against Dallas in mind when doing this. He didn’t want the division rival Dallas Cowboys to be able to study and counter what Norman could do to Dez Bryant in single coverage. While this may have seemed like a good idea when coming into the game, Brown did catch two touchdown passes over Breeland. Those kind of points can decide the outcome of an entire game. I believe that at some point Gruden should have focused on getting a W instead of what was to come next week.

Overall, the Redskins definitely have some problems on both sides of the ball. However, since this was only the first game of the season, it would be too rash to say they are doomed. There are things that must improve, but this team also has a lot of great aspects to it that they can use to collect some wins. If anything, I think this game is a wakeup call to the coaching staff and team that football is here, and the Redskins have a division title to defend.

Next: 5 Bold Predictions For Redskins vs. Cowboys