Shanahan: Creativity is key to Redskins' ground dominance
Bye week breakdown: Offense
What’s working: Robert Griffin III has been as good as advertised, while Alfred Morris has been a revelation. Through nine games, Griffin boasts the 10th best passer rating (93.9), has tossed eight touchdowns vs. three interceptions, ranks as the NFL’s leading rusher among signal callers (529 yards) and is second in the league in yards per carry (6.5).
Morris, meantime, has ascended from an obscure sixth round pick to a select group of running backs. He's a single yard out of a tie for third place, ranks fourth in rushing first downs (41) and is tied for 13th in yards per carry (4.8).
The rookie duo is the reason the Redskins sit atop the NFL in rushing yards with 1,481. And they're doing it while running behind a Trent Williams-led offensive line that has outperformed expectations.
What isn’t: Despite all of the impressive numbers the Shanahans’ innovative offense has generated – the unit is third in yards (3,436) – Griffin and Co. have consistently struggled to sustain drives by converting third downs.
In fact, the Redskins rank second-to-last in third down conversion rate at 28.6 percent. Only the 1-8 Jaguars are worse at 28.4 percent. During Washington’s three game losing streak, they are 12 of 40 on third down, including a woeful 3 of 15 in last week’s “must-win” loss to the Panthers.
What’s got to improve: Through the first six games this season, the Redskins were prolific, averaged 29.7 points per game. The past two games, however, the unit has hit a wall, scoring a total of 25 points in losses to the Steelers and Panthers.
While there are many contributing factors to the decline, to be sure, the most obvious reason is the team’s sudden inability to finish drives. In fact, they’ve scored touchdowns on only two of their past eight trips inside the opponent’s 20, including back-to-back 1 for 3 efforts against Pittsburgh and Carolina.
Penalties, mental miscues (such as dropped passes and missed blocks) and curious play calls are all to blame.
Whatever the reason, the bottom line is when your defense yields 27.6 points per games, countering with field goals ain’t going to cut it.