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Ask the Expert: Mark Maske

Posted Dec 10, 2013

Falcons vice president of football communications Reggie Roberts gets the Week 15 lowdown from Washington Post NFL Writer Mark Maske this week

Reggie Roberts:  Give us a sense of what’s happened to the Redskins this season?

Mark Maske:  Where to begin? In retrospect, the Redskins’ 2013 season probably was over pretty much about the time Robert Griffin III fell to the turf with his right knee re-injured during last season’s playoff loss to the Seahawks. Griffin hasn’t been the same player as he works his way back from his knee surgery in January. Last season, Griffin was one of the league’s best players and that compensated for the deficiencies that the Redskins had elsewhere, especially on defense. This season, those deficiencies remain and there hasn’t been brilliant play at quarterback to overcome that.  This is a team with issues at quarterback, on the offensive line, at receiver, on defense and, especially, on special teams. It’s just not a very good team right now and the record is reflective of that.

RR:  Offensively, the Redskins are 9th in the NFL in total offense, but they are 3-10.  What’s happened to the club’s offense?

MM:  The Redskins still run the ball well with Alfred Morris. Last season, they used their read-option looks and the running of Griffin and Morris to set up big plays in the passing game, and Griffin cashed in when he got receivers wide open down the field with defenses geared up to stop the run. This season, defenses around the league seemed to figure out the read-option. In addition to that, Redskins’ opponents seemed to take the approach of taking away the big plays in the passing game from Griffin, forcing him to be more patient with passes underneath. Griffin didn’t always find those receivers and didn’t always throw the ball accurately. It’s still a pretty good offense. It’s just not last season’s offense.

RR:  There has been a lot of speculation this week regarding head coach Mike Shanahan and his future in Washington.  What can you tell us about this?

MM:  Mike Shanahan’s coaching status with the Redskins appears to be on a day-by-day basis at the moment. He spoke Monday with Daniel Snyder, the owner of the team, and wasn’t fired immediately, but there are still plenty of people around the league who believe that could happen at any moment. Those people will tell you they’re convinced that Shanahan and the Redskins will part ways soon, by just after the season at the latest, and now it’s only a matter of when and how it happens. We’ll see. As of the moment that I’m writing this, late Tuesday morning, he’s still the coach of the Redskins.

RR:  The Redskins and Falcons are 3-10 – obviously down seasons for both clubs who were in the NFC playoffs one year ago. What kind of game are you expecting on Sunday and who do you think will start at QB for the Redskins?

MM:   The Falcons seem to be playing more competitively than the Redskins at the moment, even with their similarly disappointing records and seasons. The Redskins were never in the game last Sunday at home against the Chiefs. They gave up two touchdowns on special teams in the first half and lost, 45-10. There’s really no evidence at the moment to suggest that the Redskins will play any better this weekend other than perhaps the “You never know” quality to the NFL. Kirk Cousins finished the Kansas City game at quarterback and Mike Shanahan said Monday he might sit down Griffin for the rest of the season and go with Cousins. That decision is supposed to be made Wednesday. But, again, everything is up in the air for the Redskins at the moment, and some people in and around this organization believe the quarterback decision this week plays into the whole dynamic of the deliberations about Shanahan’s status. The best that I can say at this point, Tuesday morning, is that we’ll have to see how it plays out. If nothing else, it’s always interesting with the Redskins.

RR:  And finally, give us a sense as to how well Alfred Morris is playing this season?

MM:  Alfred Morris is running the ball every bit as well as he did last season as a rookie, and maybe even slightly better. He’s a tough, hard-nosed runner. When the Redskins stick to their running game with Morris and manage to keep a game close and competitive, they still can be an effective team on offense. When they have fallen behind by significant margins, that’s when it all falls apart for them. They tend to abandon Morris and the running game. The offensive line hasn’t been able to protect the quarterback consistently in the drop-back passing game when opposing pass rushers don’t need to worry too much about the read-option or Morris.


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