In the NFL, no team is ever satisfied by the prior week's results – even if it’s a win. They’re always tinkering and changing things on both offense and defense to get better for the upcoming game. Just ask Bruce Arians. He was upset with his offense after the Cardinals beat the Buccaneers 40-7. Some teams have bigger issues than others, but even the best could use some alterations. Here are five teams that need to make changes ahead of Week 3.
APPhelan M. Ebenhack
Redskins: Take pressure off Kirk Cousins by running the ball
There may not be a player in the NFL with more pressure on him than Washington QB Kirk Cousins. Coach Jay Gruden has called him out for not meeting expectations, there are reported rumblings in the locker room with players expressing frustration, and he’s playing poorly in a contract year. Cousins was the main reason the Redskins made the playoffs last season after posting a passer rating above 100 and throwing 29 touchdown passes, but that’s not the same player Washington has had at quarterback this season. He’s thrown one touchdown pass and three interceptions in two games and the Redskins have yet to win a game.
It’s clear he’s aware of the pressure and probably feels as though he needs to do more than he’s capable of, and that falls partly on the coaching staff. Gruden and coordinator Sean McVay need to put him in position to succeed, and that begins with running the ball more often. No team runs the ball less than the Redskins, who have just 29 attempts through two games. They’ve called running plays just 24.6 percent of the time, which is by far the lowest rate in the NFL. Matt Jones and Christian Thompson aren’t the best backs in football, but they can still carry the ball. In order to open up the passing game, Washington needs to establish the run – regardless of the talent in its backfield.
Cowboys: Blitz more often
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is known as a coach who doesn’t often send blitzes. He wants the defense to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks by rushing just four linemen, but the Cowboys don’t have a serviceable line combination. Toward the end of their win over the Redskins, particularly on Washington’s final few drives, the Cowboys had four defensive tackles on the line. Why? Because their two best defensive ends are suspended, and there aren’t any quality starters behind Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory.
The result was what you’d expect – very little pressure on Cousins – and it nearly cost the Cowboys a win. Fortunately for Dallas, Lawrence will be back in Week 5, but what are the Cowboys to do until then? Blitz. Dallas isn't getting nearly enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks with its current D-line, so it’s time to bring some heat from the middle and back of the defense.
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Bills: Lean on the running game
After ranking second in rushing attempts (502) and first in yards on the ground (2,432) a year ago, the Bills have abandoned the run and had little success carrying the ball. They’re 24th in attempts (43) and yards per game (75.5), which is half of what they averaged last season. Why? Well, it’s certainly not because the passing game is having success, as Buffalo is 30th in passing yards. There’s really no explanation for the Bills’ abandoning of the run game after it carried the offense in 2015.
With Greg Roman now out as the offensive coordinator, the Bills need to lean on LeSean McCoy and the ground game. Granted, McCoy has averaged just 3.1 yards per carry, but he’s one of the league's most dynamic backs when healthy. In order for the passing game to improve, the Bills need to establish the run. That’s not going to happen when McCoy is carrying it 15 times per game. And with No. 1 receiver Sammy Watkins not completely healthy, there should be an increased emphasis on running the ball against the Cardinals.
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY SportsTimothy T. Ludwig
Titans: Involve Derrick Henry on offense
Derrick Henry was arguably the MVP of the preseason for the Titans. That’s not saying much, seeing as the games don’t count, but the rookie back averaged 6.4 yards per carry and showed good quickness between the tackles. In the regular season, he’s gotten only 14 carries and averaged 3.1 yards per carry. He has, however, caught three passes for 50 yards thanks to a highlight-reel 29-yard reception. The guy Henry’s backing up hasn’t been particularly great.
DeMarco Murray has rushed for 131 yards on 25 carries, which is solid. But consider that more than half of his yards came on one 67-yard gain last week. In that game against the Lions, Murray had 89 yards on the ground. Outside of that 67-yard run, he averaged exactly 2 yards per carry. That’s not good. Henry deserves more touches on an offense that is 28th in scoring and 14th in rushing.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY SportsChristopher Hanewinckel
Packers: Get more creative on offense
Much has been made about the way Aaron Rodgers has played thus far. He’s struggled ever since the start of last season, and it’s carried over into his first two games of 2016. He’s the centerpiece of the offense, but he’s far from the only issue. The coaching staff has gotten predictable and stagnant with the offense’s formations and play calling. More often than not, the Packers are in a three-wide formation with a tight end. It’s become their base look with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams as the receivers. None of the three is winning one-on-one matchups when put in those situations, which is forcing Rodgers to hold onto the ball longer than he’d like.
How does the coaching staff fix this? Start by giving defenses different looks. Go with two tight ends and establish the run. Off of that, mix in some play action with Rodgers under center, forcing the defense to come up and account for the run. The Packers have two capable backs in Eddie Lacy and James Starks, but they’ve relied almost solely on a struggling Rodgers. Mix up the formations and personnel instead of running the same stale plays that haven’t worked.