August 5, 2020

Redskins at 3-1 have plenty of room for improvement

Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan needs to find more points in the offense. (photo by Brian Murphy)

The numbers are what they are. The Redskins have three wins through four games and sit atop the NFC East. If they repeat these results in the final three quarters of the season, they project to a playoff berth and the most wins since 1991.

But is it really that simple?

The Redskins are one of 14 teams with at least three wins so far. They have matched the win projections of several preseason analysts already, and with the ailing Eagles coming to FedEx Field after the bye week, fans are already dreaming about a 4-1 record.

That said, of all of the winning teams so far, the Redskins appear to be the easiest to explain away. They caught the Giants in disarray and beaten up. The Cardinals and Rams are awful. The Cowboys showed the country that the Redskins offense could not win them a game.

For crying out loud, the last time the Redskins started 3-1 was Jim Zorn’s first year. Who wants to be compared to that?

The truth is, statistically, the Redskins are one of the weakest winning teams. They’ve scored nine team touchdowns in four games, and four of them came against the Giants. Their 20 net-points also ranks near the bottom amongst winning teams.

The one stat they are dominant in is time of possession, and in many ways it is also the most concerning. The Redskins hold the ball more than all but one winning team this season, but they’ve scored the fewest points. They’ve had the ball for roughly 134:40, but have scored just 83 points – and seven of them are defensive.

This means that it takes the offense, on average, 12:23 of possession to score seven points. At this clip, the Redskins offense should be expected to score about 19 points per game. That is anemic, and it is only sustainable if the defense is dominant. Last season, only five defenses gave up fewer than 19 points per game. The top two met in the Super Bowl.

This season, the Redskins are third best in points-allowed at 15.8 points per game. This, combined with the six forced turnovers and a defensive touchdown, has made the Redskins defense one of the best in the league. But the Redskins offense is in the process of squandering that as well.

Rex Grossman has turned the ball over 14 times in seven games started plus one drive as the Redskins quarterback. They are one of only three winning teams with a negative turnover differential this year. It is only at negative one, but it must get better. It is too much to ask of a defense to hold a team to less than 19 points per game and try to compete with their own offense in the turnover department.

Grossman mirrors this weakness. In his best statistical season with the Bears in 2006, he threw 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. One stat good, one stat equally bad. It spells mediocrity.

Luckily for the Redskins, only six of their final 12 opponents currently have records at .500 or better. If they can continue to pick up wins against losing teams, then they should finish with a winning record and compete for a playoff berth. But if their defense regresses as the season advances, then the stats point to a severe turnaround for the Redskins.

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Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Redskins coverage on Twitter @RedskinsDSP.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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