News & Politics

Pass-Happy Redskins in First Place of NFC East

Rex Grossman continues to get the call from Kyle Shanahan

Santana Moss slips by Patrick Peterson during Sunday’s Redskins victory. Photograph by Brian Murphy

Things are about to get crazy in Washington. The Redskins are 2-0 and alone atop the NFC East. If my calculations are correct, the team should be able to fly to Dallas on the wings of their fan’s exuberance.

That said, I’m going to attempt to temper some of those feelings. It’s not that I don’t love getting carried away over the Redskins, because I do. In fact, it’s pretty much my favorite month of the year. Unfortunately I can’t get too excited about Rex Grossman.

As a fan of the Florida Gators, I love Rex. I have the unironic jersey hanging in my closet to prove it. As a Redskins fan, he scares the crap out of me. He can be fun in spurts, but relying on Grossman to throw the ball upwards of 40 times is madness. Yet that’s exactly what we’re getting from Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

When the Shanahans came to town a lot of the talk was about Mike’s zone blocking scheme and one-cut backs running downhill. Always downhill. However, it is apparent that this offense is his son’s. Kyle, a wide receiver in his college days, is pass happy.

The NFL has become more of a passing league in recent years. If you have the right quarterback it makes sense to throw the ball all over the field. If you have Grossman you damn well better run the ball.

That’s not to say that the Redskins didn’t run the ball effectively on Sunday, because 177 yards on 31 carries from your running backs is pretty fantastic. The problem is, they could have done more. Roy Helu and Tim Hightower were carving up the Cardinals front seven, yet it was Grossman getting the ball when it mattered most. Like on third down, where 13 passes were called against just two rushing attempts (not including the final kneel down).

It’s not terribly surprising when you consider Kyle Shanahan’s history. When he became football’s youngest coordinator with the ’08 Texans his offense ranked seventh in the NFL in pass attempts compared to 16th in rushes. The next year his team finished fourth and 20th, respectively. In his first season calling the plays for Washington the team attempted the fourth most passes in the league while running the ball fewer times than all but one team.

I’m going to continue to have trouble buying in to the new system until the team figures out what they’re going to do about a franchise quarterback. Until then I’ll have to be content watching the rest of the roster improve.

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