Monday, October 24, 2011
Beck won't save banged-up Redskins
By Dan Graziano
The narrative around the Washington Redskins the past two weeks has been about the quarterback position, because that's the way the narrative always seems to trend in today's NFL. But the reality is that John Beck isn't going to carry this season's Redskins any farther than Rex Grossman was. The most the Redskins can ask of Beck is "just fine" -- to keep it simple, protect the ball and make sure not to get in the way of what they really want to do on offense.
To win with John Beck at QB, the Redskins can't afford injuries to his supporting cast.
Unfortunately, the more substantial and important parts of the Redskins' narrative are falling apart. Injuries to the offensive line forced big changes in front of the quarterback this week, and while the revamped line held up, injuries are now mounting in the running back and wide receiver corps. This is where things get dangerous for the Redskins, no matter who's playing quarterback. If Tim Hightower and Santana Moss and Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger aren't going to be there around him, Beck's chances for success are going to keep dropping.
The Redskins focused their offseason energies on improving their defense, and their apparent plan is to wait until next offseason to do the same with the offense and maybe find that long-term franchise quarterback they obviously do not currently have. In the meantime, Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan designed an offense that could keep the Redskins in games as long as their improved defense kept the opponent's score down. This offense was based on the running game behind Hightower, Ryan Torain, Roy Helu or some combination thereof. It was based on ball control -- through four games the Redskins were the best time-of-possession team in the league, and they were 3-1 because of that and because the defense was allowing just 15 points per game.
But this season's Redskins were never a team with much margin for error, and a couple of injuries here and there can knock such a team way off course. Once something happens to inhibit these Redskins' ability to dominate the ground game and time of possession, they're going to find it nearly impossible to come back and win. Once Cam Newton became too much for the defense to handle Sunday, the Redskins were left playing catch-up, and that is not their game. Especially with their starting running back and top wide receiver going down with injuries.
It remains to be seen how long they'll be without Hightower and Moss. They have depth at both positions, and assuming they can play a close game and get out in front against the Bills on Sunday in Toronto, there's no reason to think they can't get to 4-3 with an upset. Beck will have to avoid turnovers, because the Bills thrive on those, but if he's being asked to do much besides that, you can bet the Redskins are already in hole out of which they cannot climb.
For reasons that had little if anything to do with the identity of the man playing quarterback, the Redskins' offense couldn't get points on the board early in Sunday's game against Carolina. As a result, they had to ask too much of their defense, and eventually Newton took over. That script needs to be changed if the Redskins are going to hang in all season in this division -- a goal that remains very much possible, given their schedule and the fact that no one has yet run away with it. They're going to need to find ways to get back to what they were doing in the early weeks of this season, when they were running the ball, controlling the game and no one was overly worried about who was playing quarterback. That's where the Redskins' offense needs and wants to be.