Redskins looking for ways to turn season around
As if watching his team give up 59 points wasn't painful enough to see in person, Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett went straight to the office in the wee hours and turned on the reruns.
''I watched it at, like, 3:30, 5:30, and I watched it when I went home,'' Haslett said Thursday. ''I watched it three or four times. It didn't get any better.''
A beatdown like Monday night's 59-28 loss to Philadelphia this late into the season - after two weeks to prepare because of the bye week, no less - is cause for introspection, explanation and at least a little change.
The Redskins (4-5) have been doing all three as they prepare for Sunday's visit to the Tennessee Titans, a game Washington needs to realistically stay in the playoff hunt.
''I've never been a part of anything like this before,'' offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. ''I think we're all frustrated with it. You try not to press, and we've just got to keep going forward.''
It's amazing the Redskins have been able to stay so close to .500, considering they rank so poorly in so many areas. The offense can't sustain a drive. It has only seven possessions all season that have lasted 10 plays or more, fewest in the NFL.
Donovan McNabb is the league's lowest-rated quarterback on third down, completing only 42 percent of his passes with a rating of 44.5.
The Redskins went 0 for 10 on third down conversions against the Eagles. They could start 11-for-11 against the Titans and still not catch up to the percentage of 31st-ranked Chicago.
The defense is giving up 415.3 yards per game, on pace to threaten the all-time NFL record for yards allowed in a season. The last two games have been real stinkers - a 37-25 loss to Detroit preceded the debacle against Philadelphia.
For months, players and coaches have talked about the inevitable growing pains they would experience after installing a new offense and defense under new coach Mike Shanahan. Nine games into the season, that line of thinking starts to get a bit tiresome - even if it's still true.
''People have new offenses all the time,'' Kyle Shanahan said. ''That doesn't mean we're going to be as bad as we're doing.''
Linebacker Brian Orakpo said he's not going to use the new defense as an excuse because nine games have been played already, but he said the Redskins are having growing pains.
''We would love to be top 10 in all the stats that a defense can have, but we're struggling right now as far as getting stuff down, everybody being on the same assignment, tackling. All kinds of issues,'' he said.
The defense has been plugging pieces from last year's 4-3 defense into a 3-4 scheme. Haslett said when Green Bay made a similar switch last year, the Packers made sure they drafted new players that would fit. The Redskins tried to shift players around - and it hasn't worked in many cases.
''When you do make a switch from one to the other without really adding a lot of pieces, it's going to take a little bit of time,'' Haslett said.
In other words, the defense probably won't be clicking on all cylinders until next year at the earliest.
McNabb has taken the brunt of the criticism for the offense, but the Redskins need better linemen and some more receivers.
Joey Galloway has been a waste of a roster spot so far; he's caught only nine passes and has worked his way down the pecking order. He was a starter at the beginning of the season, dropped to the No. 3 wideout after a few games, then was benched Monday night after his poorly run route led to an Eagles interception.
As a result, look for confident 5-foot-7 kick returner Brandon Banks to start getting more snaps at receiver.
''I feel like I can catch a 5-yard route and go to 60 and put points on the board,'' said Banks, the only player showing a sense of bravado in the locker room this week.
Otherwise, there are only so many lineup changes the Redskins can make that haven't already been tried. It wouldn't make sense to overhaul the offensive and defensive schemes yet again, so that leaves intangibles as the best hope for a turnaround.
Mike Shanahan said he needs to do a better job preparing his team, and McNabb said maybe everyone is fretting a bit too much.
''We really just need to relax and go out and play football,'' McNabb said.