Here's five takeaways from Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay's Oct. 9, 2015, press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1. While the offense has played well to start games this year, and the unit ended last Sunday's game by marching 90 yards down the score for a game-winning touchdown, they need to do better in third quarters.
This really applies to the whole team, as they've held shutout leads over the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles at halftime, but both teams were able to rally in the third quarter.
Of course the Redskins would win both of these games, but the offense needs to find ways to move the ball coming out of the locker room.
"Anytime that you've been able to start the games the way we have in the first half, you want to try to carry that over into the second half," McVay said. "Credit to some of the defenses that we played. Last week against Philadelphia, we come out with two runs. They stop us in a short-yardage situation. They did a nice job there, but we've got to figure out a way to create some momentum coming out of the half, whether that be creating some explosive plays or just being more efficient on first and second down so that we can move the chains and come away with points."
Each and every game plays out different, but the Redskins want to put points on the board in the third quarter regardless of circumstances.
"Obviously we'd like to come away with touchdowns," McVay said. "That's something that each game is its own entity. We've had four games and I feel like, you really look at the Giants game, we were able to move the football down the field the first drive we had in the second half and unfortunately we turn it over. I want to say we were around like the 35-yard line with the tipped pick. Then, some of those other situations, there's always a little bit of an individual thing and circumstance that comes up, but that's certainly a point of emphasis for us is coming out of that half with a little bit better momentum."
2. McVay has seen first-hand Chris Thompson's growth from oft-injured rookie to practice squad member to a guy making big plays.
Thompson was in the running for a spot on the team's 53-man roster last fall, but was ultimately beat out for the third running back spot by Silas Redd Jr.
The Florida State product would eventually get some action at the end of the season, even scoring a touchdown on his first-career touch, but he never really got into a groove.
This year is different, though, and his performance against the Eagles is proof, as he recorded a 42-yard run and made key receptions.
"Really, really happy for Chris in the way that he has matured," McVay said. "And being able to stay healthy. He's always been a guy that's had a bunch of talent, real conscientious, smart, aware football player. He's been crucial for us. He had two huge third-down conversions for us on that [first] drive [vs. Philadelphia]. The run on the draw was outstanding. It was our longest play of the year at that point, and then he comes back on a third-and-short where they're in man coverage and we hit him on a screen, so very pleased with him. He's an important part of what we're trying to do."
3. Losing Jordan Reed for the game will be tough, but the Redskins have confidence in Derek Carrier to help fill the void.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden on Friday afternoon confirmed that Jordan Reed, who has been dealing with a slew of injuries including a concussion, will not play this weekend.
It's a tough blow for Reed, who has gotten off to the strongest start of his young career. It also means that the Redskins will be without their three offseason projected tight ends for the season with Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen, of course, also out.
But the team really likes what they've seen out of Carrier, a player that acquired in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers.
"I think he's a very athletic tight end," McVay said. "He moves around well. I think he competes well in both phases. He obviously hasn't had a lot of opportunities in the pass game, but you see when he does, he has the ability to get up the field. He caught a stick route last week on a 2nd-and-16 situation, gets us into a third-and-one, so he is somebody that can do some things with the football in his hands once he gets it there because he is athletic."
The Washington Redskins on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, announced the acquisition of tight end Derek Carrier. Take a look at his NFL career in photos.
While grasping the tight end's role in the offense can be difficult, especially in such a short amount of time, Carrier's being coached up well.
"I think [tight ends coach] Wes [Phillips] is doing a great job as he continues to get more and more comfortable with some of the scheme things that we're doing technique-wise in the run game," McVay said. "And he's a guy that has a lot of upside that gets better each and every week."
4. The offensive line has been nothing short of outstanding through the first quarter of the season.
It was a unit that many outside of the Redskins expected to struggle. But with Bill Callahan leading the way, Trent Williams playing like he always does and the younger players playing past their experience, they've been able to keep Kirk Cousins' jersey clean and create gaping running lanes for the running backs.
"They've protected the quarterback well." McVay said. "I think we've been able to run the football efficiently. So, they're playing at a high level right now. And I thought it was really encouraging to see – missing Shawn Lauvao last week – the way that Spencer Long stepped in in his real, first, big-time action in a game that really mattered. I thought he responded to the challenge and I think Coach [Bill] Callahan does an excellent job with those guys."
Perhaps key to the unit's success is the mixing of talented veterans with younger players with tons of upside.
"We've got some veteran leadership upfront with guys like Kory [Lichtensteiger], Trent [Williams] that do an excellent job keeping everybody in line," McVay said. "And then the young three guys that are playing for us are continuing to get better each and every week."
5. NcVay still keeps in touch with a lot of the former Redskins now down in Atlanta, but Sunday is all business.
McVay was the tight ends coach under former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who now holds the same role with the Falcons.
After one season in Cleveland, Shanahan transferred back over to the NFC. He brought with him Mike McDaniel, Mike LaFleur, Chris Morgan and Bobby Turner, all of whom McVay worked with when they were in Washington.
"Those are some of my best friends," McVay said. "I have a lot of respect for those guys. Really happy to see how well they've done, actually. I told them, 'Hey, there's nothing wrong with going 15-1, guys.' I'm happy for them but I keep in regular touch with them. They're close friends of mine."