LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 6: Quarterback John Beck #12 of the Washington Redskins looks for open receivers against the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter at FedExField on November 6, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. The San Francisco 49ers won, 19-11. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Mired in a funk of epic proportions, the Redskins offense is searching for someone to emerge as a consistent threat and provide a boost to a team unraveling more quickly than Rick Perry’s presidential hopes.
In John Beck’s three starts, Washington has just six plays that have gone for 20 yards or more – all of them passes. Their longest play from scrimmage against the 49ers last Sunday was Beck’s 17-yard checkdown to Roy Helu.
None of those numbers reflect well upon much-maligned offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. When he coached in Houston, Shanahan had an established quarterback in Matt Schaub and an offense capable of exploding for a big play at any time.
In Washington, that’s not the case.
“[Big plays have] been something that I’ve always believed in and something that I feel like I’ve always gotten,” he said. “We haven’t been getting them the last few weeks. [We’ve] struggled to get it a lot all year.”
Injuries haven’t helped Shanahan’s cause, especially in the running game where the Redskins most complete back, Tim Hightower, is out for the season. However, there have been no signs of progression in the second year under an offensive-minded head coach and his son.
Anthony Armstrong has received less playing time because of his issues against press coverage and no other receiver has emerged as a weapon downfield. Jabar Gaffney has assumed the No. 1 receiving role with Santana Moss out and he expressed his frustrations after Beck failed to notice he was open for much of the 49ers’ game.
“When we’re losing and I feel like I’m open and I feel like I can make a play that’s when I really want it,” Gaffney said. “Right now, we need to make a play. Everybody needs to get their confidence back. That’s what we’re missing.”
Shanahan hopes one big play will have a snowball effect and kick the offense in gear. Beck has failed to extend drives and it has certainly felt as if the Redskins haven’t been in the previous two games at any point. A big play or two might change that.
“It really helps out your offense and it takes the pressure off,” Shanahan said. “It’s tough to get 12-play drives together. When you can get a big play, it really changes the game.”
Of course easier said than done. Beck has shown little ability to stretch the field and defenses seem content to let him dump the ball off on the bulk of his dropbacks. Against San Francisco it was more of a matter of taking what the defense gave him, but Beck is trying to put the losses behind him.
“We’ve all had to go through games where you lose and you lose badly,” he said. “It hurts inside and there’s that pain that goes along with it but you learn, ‘Alright, I have to move on and I have to put that behind me.’”
The Beck era has gotten off to a forgettable start, but perhaps a lowly Miami Dolphins team will cure the offensive ills. Miami is coming off a strong performance against the Chiefs so Beck will have to do a better job attacking them and spreading the ball around to generate the early points that have been so hard to come by.
“I know the guys are trying their hardest to get something going early, but at some point we need to play 60 minutes and we haven’t done that yet,” said Lorenzo Alexander. “It’s just about having mental toughness … stepping up [from the start of the game] and getting it going.”