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Redskins Fighting Through Transition Game

By Jake Russell | November 10th, 2011

Even though Coach Mike Shanahan is reluctant to admit that the Redskins are in a rebuilding phase, it is exactly the path he is leading the team right now.

It was apparent back in March when Andre Carter, Derrick Dockery and Clinton Portis were released for various reasons. In April, the youth movement continued as the Redskins war room managed to produce 12 new picks when they entered the draft with eight. Immediately following the lockout in July, the team continued to rid itself of older players and focused primarily on free agents under the age of 30. Following training camp, the team continued to show its direction by keeping all 12 picks after final cuts were made. Nine were kept on the 53-man roster while three were added to the practice squad.

The Redskins defense, which features five new starters, including rookie standout Ryan Kerrigan, has been performing well as whole. However, the overall performance by the offense as of late indicates a team that is giving essential playing time to its youth (in age and experience). The Redskins started off the season with a surprising 3-1 record but the offensive production diminished as each week went on. The play of quarterback Rex Grossman had been declining, mostly due to his erroneous passes and erratic decision making and was benched following a four interception performance against the one-win Philadelphia Eagles.

In that game, Grossman was replaced with a 30-year-old out of BYU who, to that point, had only appeared in only five games with only four career starts. Now the bigger problem lies with the offense failing to put up yards and sustain drives more so than turning the ball over. This has resulted in little point production and minimal time of possession.

In their current four-game losing steak, the Redskins offense has averaged 11 points per contest, with 22 of the 44 coming in the fourth quarter during garbage time. Washington’s offense has been struggling to put together productive, time-consuming drives, especially in the first three quarters. In the last four games, the Redskins have lost the time of possession battle and finished at least 10 minutes behind their opponents in three of those losses.

The Redskins also gave three rookies on offense their first career starts this past Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.In order to build from within, this becomes is a necessary evil. As recent history has shown for the Redskins, simply plugging in veterans that are past their prime because the young players aren’t producing has not been a valuable model to go by.

Running back Roy Helu, taken in the fourth round out of Nebraska, has received increased playing time the past few weeks. He was given a heavy workload against San Francisco, producing 156 of the team’s 303 total yards, as well as posting a team-record 14 receptions. He also had his downs, only gaining 41 yards on the ground and giving up a crucial fumble that helped put the 49ers up 13-0 at the end of the first half.

Offensive lineman Maurice Hurt also made his first start a left guard against San Francisco but the seventh rounder struggled at times to make the quick transition from backup to starter. Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson has also been given opportunities to make a name for himself lately, playing in 63 of the 64 snaps taken by the Redskins offense against the 49ers. Hankerson, taken in the third round of this April’s draft, scored his first points as a pro with his late two-point conversion reception against San Francisco.

It won’t get any easier for the Redskins as the season goes on. This weekend they travel to Miami to face an improved Dolphins team that is looking to build off of strong performances the past two weeks. Two weeks ago, Miami almost upset the New York Giants one the road and earned their first win this past Sunday in a 31-3 route in Kansas City against a Chiefs team that was riding a four-game winning streak. Following the Miami contest, the Redskins still have to play each of their division rivals again, as well as the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

As difficult as it is for a notoriously impatient fanbase, watching an inexperienced team fail to produce on the field is something that has to be endured in order to fully see this process through. Transitioning from one of the oldest teams in the league to one of the youngest isn’t supposed to be an easy adjustment. As long as fans understand the evolution that is taking place, then the pain of watching the current product on the field will be more tolerable.

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell

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