Washington Redskins 2014 Season Review: Another Year at the Bottom
The Redskins finished 2013 an incredibly disappointing 3-13. The offseason saw them go in a new direction at both head coach and offensive coordinator, with Sean McVay being promoted to replace Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and Jay Gruden replacing Mike Shanahan as head coach.
In an attempt to improve a passing offense that ranked 25th in the league according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric in 2013, the Redskins signed wideout DeSean Jackson away from their division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. They also made another big signing in former Steelers' safety Ryan Clark.
Gruden was unable to do much in the way of turning the team around in his first year at the helm, as Washington went 4-12 in 2014, remaining at the bottom on the competitive NFC East.
So what did the 2014 Redskins season look like? Were there any positives?
The DeSean Jackson signing was a good one, and he was one of the very few bright spots for the Washington offense this season. He posted a Reception NEP of 89.13 on the year, good for 19th in the league. His numbers were even more impressive on a per-target basis, finishing fourth in Reception NEP per target among all players with at least 50 targets.
That's about all that went well in terms of skill position players for Washington's offense, though Trent Williams had a fairly good season up front, allowing only four sacks and seven quarterback hits from the tackle position.
The facet of the game that Washington was the strongest in this year, by a huge margin, was defending the run. They posted an Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play of -0.06, which indicates that they denied their opponents 0.06 points on average. This ranked sixth in the league. This was a huge jump from their 2013 ranking of 16th (-0.01).
Both Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Hatcher did an excellent job getting to the quarterback for the Skins' defense. Kerrigan recorded a team-high 13 sacks as well as 51 hurries, while Hatcher was second on the team with 8 sacks and 26 hurries.
One thing that jumps out immediately about Washington is that the quarterback situation is an absolute mess. Gruden dabbled with having both Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins under center, and neither one was successful.
Despite an embarrassing four-interception performance in a primetime game against the Giants, Cousins was actually the more effective passer of the two. He finished 17th in the league in Passing NEP per drop back (0.09) among the 37 quarterbacks who dropped back to pass at least 200 times this year. Not exactly awe-inspiring numbers, but at least not a total disaster.
Griffin, on the other hand, was abysmal. He posted a Passing NEP per drop back of -0.15. That puts him 36th out of 37 quarterbacks with 200 or more dropbacks on the year, ahead of only Blake Bortles (-0.18). In fact, over the last three seasons, Griffin's 2014 numbers were better than only three other passers: Blake Bortles in 2014, Brady Quinn (-0.32) in 2012 and John Skelton (-0.26) in 2012. Not exactly company you want to be in.
Griffin didn't redeem himself on the ground, either. Of the 24 quarterbacks who ran the ball 20 or more times this season, Griffin's Rushing NEP per carry ranked 19th.
While the Redskins rushing attack wasn't bad, ranking 14th in Adjusted Rushing NEP, it wasn't enough to carry the 25th-ranked passing offense. Overall, the offense finished 20th in Adjusted NEP.
On the defensive side of the ball, Washington's ability to defend the pass was among the worst of the 21st century. They finished dead last in the league with an Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play of 0.27. This number is tied for the third worst in our entire database, which dates back to the 2000 season.
The secondary was bad enough that, despite boasting the sixth-ranked rush defense, Washington only managed to finish the year with the 31st ranked defense.
Looking Forward to 2015
The Redskins have already replaced defensive coordinator Jim Haslett with former Chargers linebacker coach Joe Barry. While it remains to be seen if Barry will have the defense performing at a serviceable level, it's hard to believe the secondary has anywhere to go but up. If the run defense can avoid regressing too badly, the unit as a whole could post some decent numbers in 2015.
On offense, Washington needs to sort out their quarterback situation -- one way or another. Griffin had a horrendous 2014, but Gruden's wavering back and forth between Cousins and Griffin (and even Colt McCoy) clearly did not work. Whether they attempt to address the problem from within or through the draft or free agency, their offense simply can't function if play at the quarterback position doesn't improve for 2015.