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What the Redskins need to do

By LaVar Arrington

What do the Redskins need to do to have a chance in the second half of the season? To me it's plain and simple and it goes as follows.

Mold the offensive game plan to Donavan McNabb and spend more time making sure your franchise quarterback is in a more comfortable game plan. Let's face it, we don't have a QB controversy. McNabb is the team's best option, so make it work. There's no more time to try to turn him into a different player. The team traded for him, so they knew what they were getting. It's safe to say McNabb has done more than enough in his career for these coaches to adjust to his strengths, at least for the sake of this season. The coaches should know this.

The Redskins had a slow week rushing due to injuries in the last game but this team has had a week to heal up. So I anticipate a healthy Ryan Torain this week. It will be interesting to see if Clinton Portis is healthy enough to play and whether he will be in good enough condition. The healthier these two guys are the better chance they have of making a difference in the running attack. The Redskins must establish a strong ground game. As it gets deeper into the season the elements will start to play a larger role in each game. Rain, snow, sleet and cold can be helpful elements if a team has a dominant ground game.

Blocking. This offensive line should be the most motivated group for the rest of the year. They have under-achieved and quite frankly there's no time for feeling sorry about how poorly they have blocked. In my opinion, the area that needs the most improvement is here. If these guys upfront can get down to business from here on out, I believe McNabb and the ground game will be consistently better.

The defense has played well and has continued to progress nicely, but it will still need to generate more pressure and more hits on the opposing QB's. Hits and pressures will cripple offenses and lead to takeaway opportunities for the defense. A shell-shocked QB is a great QB, as long as it's the other team's.

If the Redskins are planning on winning enough games to make the playoffs and prove once and for all Mike Shanahan knows what he's doing, this team will have to show the ability to continue to improve. These guys will all need to get on the same page. If the team took this week to put everything bad behind it from the first part of the season, it could make a huge difference.

Many story lines have played out throughout the first eight games, some good and some not so good. But through it all the Redskins have made it to 4-4, with the hardest part of their schedule seemingly behind them. This team is sitting in a pretty good position. It will come down to this team's resolve as to where it will go from here. Sometimes it's not about the X's and O's of the game. It's more about a group of men looking into each others' eyes and having so much accountability for one another that failure isn't an option. From the coaches on down, if every swinging soul in the
locker room renews that vow, this team has enough talent to be very dangerous. But tons of humility will be needed. Does the success of the team mean enough to each person to do what needs to be done? Can players put aside their egos, personal goals and agendas? Can personal pride be swallowed for the better good of this team?

Hopefully Coach Shanahan realizes that he is the standard and not the exception and that if he's working toward perfection in these areas then everyone else will fall into line and the ones who don't will be easier to identify. I've been very critical of Mike Shanahan, for inconsistencies over personnel moves as well as a host of other things, but I do know that he is a coaching legend for a reason. I am anticipating that he will make the correct decisions to lead this team through the rest of this season.

What do you think? What do the Redskins need to do to have a successful 2nd half of the season?

By LaVar Arrington  | November 8, 2010; 12:06 PM ET
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You nailed it LaVar! Nice job sir.

Posted by: alanp21 | November 8, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Mold the offensive game plan to Donavan McNabb and spend more time making sure your franchise quarterback is in a more comfortable game plan.

Lavar, I love you to death and I wish you still played with the Skins. And so far I've agreed with everything you've said. But if you don't think the Skins have already tried to mold this offense to Donovan's strengths then I don't know what to tell you. When a QB is highly inconsistent, has lost a lot of his athletic ability that he used in the past to mask some weaknesses, and the OLine issues will crop up here and there, there isn't much anyone can do outside of giving Dockery a chance to replace Lichtensteiger. Donovan's passes are late getting to his receivers, he bounces passes, he overthrows, his vision is questionable considering how many bad decisions he makes. This offense under Donovan is strictly a parallel passing game with one token long completion per game.

And this lack of downfield passing game is also hurting our running game.

Posted by: cstanton1 | November 8, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Good points Lavar. I also think that they need to make a point of getting more players involved on offense. Fred Davis has been non-existent and somehow another receiver has to start making plays. Galloway and Roydell Williams have not done much either.

It's unfortunate they'll be without Banks because he's exciting. I wish he'd get more involved in the offense. His presence on the field now that he's had his coming-out party will force defenses to pay attention to him.

Also, somehow Dockery needs to get on the field. I don't see how Lichtenstieger (excuse my spelling) can be worse than Dock. Lichtenstieger was getting man-handled last week and Dockery has more size plus is better in pass protection.

Posted by: vlad21311 | November 8, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I am more concerned with the long term nature of this team. They need to start building the smart way, i.e. through draft choices.

When George Allen and Bobby Beathard ran the team, draft choices were not as valuable as they are now because there was no salary cap in the old days. Draft picks are at a premium now because you can lock a player up for four years at a relatively low pay-rate.

Plus draft picks and rookie free agents are usually hungry to show what they've got and to make a team. They are the infusion of young talent that every team needs.

So why not follow the lead of teams like New England, and stock-pile as many picks as you can get? That way you can bring in the maximum amount of new talent evry year.

"The Future Is Now" won't work in today's NFL.

Posted by: Grendel13 | November 8, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I agree sir. Well Stated.
It seems so basic that you fit your strategy to the skills of your players.
I've always been of the opinion that a quarterback like DMac should call his own plays with plays from the coaches sent in as an option. DMac knows what he can and can't do.

Posted by: johnb1359 | November 8, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

You nailed it LaVar! Nice job sir. - alanp21

Absolutely nailed it!!!!agreed

Posted by: madalao | November 8, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

What do you think? What do the Redskins need to do to have a successful 2nd half of the season?

stockpile draft choices and start drafting quality interior linemen including a replacement for Casey Wabach. This team ain't gonna do squat this yr. We're not in the class of the Giants. We're barely in the class of the Eagles now that Vick is healthy. We're not one of the top 10 teams in the NFL. And we're old. Dump McNabb, pick up a draft pick or two and keep trying to get some 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounders. We're probably 2 to 3 yrs away from having enuff quality drafts to replenish the talent on this team. OL, QB, LB, WR. You can always pick up some D-Line guys via FA.

Posted by: cstanton1 | November 8, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I also think it's a little late in Donovan's career to start messing with his mechanics. Leave him alone to throw with his own style. How many of his "dirt" throws have been a result of him trying to alter his stance to suit the coach. Maybe all of his bad throws are a result of him being a terrible passer but somehow I don't think that's the case. Between being rushed and trying to adjust his stance to Shanahan's preferred stance, I'm sure a lot of those short to mid-level passes might have met their mark if he'd been able to just step out of the pocket and throw the way he's comfortable throwing.

As for molding this offense to suit Donovan, I beg to differ. Kyle's preferred passing attack is for the QB to step up into the pocket and throw. Well, we've all seen the fact that there usually isn't a pocket from which to throw so give DM the freedom to plan his throws by moving out of the pocket. The best throws I've seen from him this year were the ones where he moved off to the side, out of the pocket. When he tries to throw from the pocket, he's either sacked or rushed so badly he has no time to find his primary receiver, much less a secondary one. I may be wrong (it's been known to happen) but I think Donovan is a good QB and would be even better if he was given more freedom to move around and to use the stance he's been comfortable with for 11 years.

Posted by: juliagraffam | November 8, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Play calling.

The pick McNabb threw against the Lions could've been avoided entirely if Kyle Shanahan balanced his play calling. We had 15 rushes that game. I know we had some injuries at the RB position but we have to offset our passing attack with rushes regardless of it moves the ball or not.

Also, the screen we had that went for 6 with Torrain was money. I'd like to see some more of that vs. the Eagles.

There has been other instances this year where I felt like Kyle let us down with his play-calling. We don't have an explosive Saints/Colts offense, so we gotta coach smart and not put our players in bad positions if we want a chance to beat the Giants in the east.

Posted by: j2gheart | November 8, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Same OLine problems, same ol results.

Unless Vick is back there running for his life, no QB can stand back there and be successful when 3 or 4 down lineman can't be blocked. And if you can't block the Lions, then cancel Christmas when the Giants come a-callin...McNabb will get killed as bad as Cutler

Posted by: kahlua87 | November 8, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

You are 110% correct. The coaches know what Donovan can do. How many times were the Redskins on the receiving end when he was with the Eagles? Play to his strengths and the other teams weakness. Stop throwing away draft choices and build a good blend of veterans and newbies.

Posted by: DCJim1 | November 8, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

No injuries. this team has absolutely no depth and can't afford to lose any starters.

Also it's about time to admit that Kemoeatu and Brown are not going to be 100% at any time in 2010 and the club is going to have to change up what they do based on the next player in line at those positions.

You can't run a 3-4 without a NT and you can't operate an offense with a 5-7 foot drop with Stephon Heyer at RT.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | November 8, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Man, you have it right on. Now let's see if Mike Shanahan gets it. Donovan has been around too long to be molded into something else...the Skins knew what they were getting, so they should move on and make good use of this talents!

Posted by: alr47 | November 8, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Discipline. Don't give up 1st downs on penalties, don't sabotage your field position, catch passes, and follow blocking and cover assignments.

Posted by: j762 | November 8, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Pretty good analysis, but interesting that there was no mention of Graham Gano, who has missed several critical FGs this year that could have lead to a couple more W's for the Skins. He has the leg strength, but is inconsistent and barely even money in clutch situations. With the number of close games the Skins have been playing, and will likely continue to play, Gano needs to really step up his game if this team is to reach the playoffs.

Posted by: costamesamike | November 8, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

LaVar, I loved you coming out of PSU but between your antics while here and the way you left town its time you go back up to New York and work for one of their papers.

Posted by: sjp879 | November 8, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

It's tough when three-quarters of the Redskins secondary can't cover. Hall is very good, but Moore never seems to know what the coverage is, Rogers well, what can you say, and Landry can hit a ton but can't cover at all. No surprise why they have one of the worst records against the pass in the league. If not for Jay Cutler, they would be the worst.

On the other hand, look on the bright side. It could be Ball and Sensabaugh back there!

Posted by: 54465446 | November 8, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Most likely it's going to take a 10-6 record to make the playoffs, and even that's not a guarantee. That means the 'Skins will have to go at least 6-2 in the 2nd half. With that offensive line they don't have a chance. On top of that, both the running backs and the wideouts are below average for NFL standards. McNabb ain't perfect, but he doesn't have much to work with, either. In fact, I he'll do well not to get killed before the year is over. I hope things get turned around and they make the playoffs somehow, but it looks like an 8-8 year is much more realistic.

If Shanahan and Allen don't get serious about rebuilding the o-line this offseason, the mediocrity we've all endured for years will just continue indefinitely.

Posted by: cliffdweller | November 8, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

I hate to break this to you, LaVar, and the rest of the Redskin fans, but Shanny?

He's not all there.

I don't want to hash out all the personnel moves he's made, good guys he's cut, good talent he's cut...

His weird battle with Haynesworth, cutting Brandon Banks, signing him back...

Benching McNabb.

And then coming out with three excuses over 2 days?

NOPE. Sorry. That causes me to go back over all the other seemingly insane things he's done where I had said, "hmmm, crazy like a fox" and think, "you know, what? Maybe he's just plain crazy."

And that's what he is.

D Thomas? What? Galloway? Dockery?

Kyle F'ing Shanahan?

Prepare for another bad ending. This crew is crazy, too.

Posted by: Thinker_ | November 9, 2010 4:07 AM | Report abuse

LaVar, I loved you coming out of PSU but between your antics while here and the way you left town its time you go back up to New York and work for one of their papers.

Posted by: sjp879 | November 8, 2010 6:59 PM

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

OR, sjp879, you could just click on another article, you ding dong.

Nobody made you click here.

So, why don't you go back to your glory days of watching LaVar "coming out of PSU" and drive off a cliff. That way, you could die happy with LaVar, not upset at his "antics," of which you cannot name any, because you're a fraud and a liar.

Go crawl into your oven and turn the gas on. Nobody needed to hear from your ignorant [self].

PS - You're breath stinks.

Posted by: Thinker_ | November 9, 2010 4:16 AM | Report abuse

McNabb lost me in preseason when I read the article about him summoning his own marketing team to brand his image in Washington. He worked out like a warrior in Arizona but obviously he did not spend a great deal of time mastering the playbook. He has relied on his ability to stay vertical long enough to make the dump throws to Westbrook in the past, but the scat back is not in Kyle's plan as we have seen so far.

In the end McNabb was picked because of his veteran presence which actually masked a lot of flaws. His legs wont take him much further into the season as we have seen in the last two games. The Redskins are stuck with a bad marriage, trying to make the new wife into something she will never be. The sad part is that this team had a chance to use draft picks to build other parts of the team, now they will have to invest even more into one position--the quarterback.

Posted by: driley | November 9, 2010 7:26 AM | Report abuse

no other coach could or would get better results out of the current roster. The problem has and continues to be the o-line. O-Line---THE FRIEKING OFFENSIVE LINE!!! He-LOOO!!?? Can't run, can't block, can't do squat until we have a NFL-grade o-line. TWilliams is a guard--move him there after this year and get tackles, more guards, centers....

trading a 2nd and a 4rth away for a QB that can't be protected....not wise. But I know one thing: don't touch the coaches or GM--let them work a few years. Starting with: THE O-LINE!

Posted by: tabtool | November 9, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Trade McNabb for Vick.

Posted by: rixxk | November 9, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

The deal to finish the season strong is to WIN the 4 remaining divisional games and beat the Vikings. A sweep of the division ans 3 out of 4 NFC north div and be 9-7 would make wild card. and finish the season with 1 game above .500 (5-3). only game plan with every thing and tool we have to win those div games.

Posted by: boysheadcoach | November 9, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Lavar...I enjoy reading your articles, you lend a player's perspective and insight that other writers for the post might not perceive. To your point, if I were Shanny, I would have someone review pass plays/routes where McNab has consistent, and general, success and INTEGRATE those plays into my offensive scheme. Not rocket science, and McNab is the Old Dog that's not going to learn any new tricks, so, tweak the gameplan to compliment his strengths not force a square peg through a round hole.

Posted by: eello | November 9, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

this team CAN afford to lose some starters here is a list..rabach litchensteiger, back-ups..heyer doughty,buchannon,galloway,r. williams, w. mongtgomery,v. holliday coaches..shamm-o-KLAN and his offspring. eliminating these individuals from the team would make the team better if not look for more losses and excuses

Posted by: wathu19 | November 9, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Both Shanahan and McNabb have been criticized quite often and in some cases, it has been warranted, but this team is 4-4 with a ton of holes.

Credit is due to McNabb and the coaching staff.

Posted by: rickyroge | November 9, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Great read Lavar but, this schedule is backloaded more than frontloaded. Giants (2), Philly, Improving Tennesse, Improved Tampa Bay, Jacksonville on the road, Improving Minnesota, and last and definitely least - the low, low, low Cowpokes. Top notch effort with very few injuries would net 4 wins with this second half schedule and the skins will only be favored in one game(Cowboys).

Posted by: jrochelle | November 9, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I just viewed a poll on the Skins site where people are saying that we will win 5 of the next 8 games. What? Are you people smoking crack? We will be lucky to escape the 2nd half of our season at 3-5. This team is horribly coached, and has horrible execution on the field. Wake up people our team is not that good. I look forward to McNabb leaving and Snyder stepping back in and bringing Mike Vick to the Redskins! 2012 Super Bowl bound! JK ya worthless bunch of sheep!

Posted by: dwilcox2 | November 9, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I hate to say it, but we need Dallas to win
this Sunday against the Giants. I hope they play for pride, if they have any left. If it
happens, we're more in the driver's seat re
post season play.

Posted by: DeployedFan | November 9, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

At this point, the only way this team has even a remote chance of having a strong finish to the season ... is to hire hit men and take out the competition before each Sunday comes.

I still think we fell azz backwards into the 4 wins we've had, and I think it's only going to get worse from here on out.

I truly hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: FootballCardSnatcher | November 9, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

You're absolutely right, if the o-line can't do its job, neither McNabb nor the running game will be successful.

I don't see how you can say that the hard part of the season is behind them, the combined records of the teams they played in the first 8 games is 32-33, and it's 35-29 for the teams in the last 8 games. They have to play the Giants twice and as much as it pains me to admit, the Giants look like the best team in the NFC. The Vikings could be dangerous even at 3-5, and despite the Cowboys being 1-7, the Redskins can still find a way to lose against them (remember 1-15?). If the 'Skins go 8-8, it will be an accomplishment.

Posted by: BBinNY | November 9, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

If the Redskins can outscore their opponents 6 out of the next 8 games, i.e. allow less points than what they score, they will GO TO GO!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: vmrg1974 | November 10, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

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