As the Redskins work on overall improvement on offense in 2015, the team knows getting better in the red zone could be a huge piece to the puzzle.
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden eyes improving the team's execution in the red zone as a key to jump starting the Redskins' offense in 2015.
In fact, over the offseason, the Redskins were working on it in "every practice," the second-year head coach said.
"Red zone has been a struggle a little bit," Gruden said of the 2014 season. "It's something that we continue to focus on."
Last season, the Redskins scored a touchdown in 47.9 percent of their red zone trips, ranking 27th in the league in that category. Their 52-percent red zone touchdown rate in 2013 ranked 20th.
Washington hopes to get back to its excellent red zone production of just three seasons ago. In 2012, with then-rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III leading the offense, the Redskins scored a touchdown on 61.8 percent of their red zone trips, good enough for fourth in the league.
Gruden believes one component that will lead to more success in the red zone is a more consistent rushing game. He said, "Running the ball more effectively will be very helpful," and would in turn set Griffin III up for more play-action opportunities.
After scoring 11 red zone rushing touchdowns in his rookie campaign in 2012, running back Alfred Morris has scored five and seven red zone rushing touchdowns in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Fullback Darrel Young, meanwhile, has seen his number of red zone touchdowns increase from two in 2012 to three in 2013 to five (three rushing, two receiving) in 2014.
Getting the two veterans in the backfield, as well as rookie running back Matt Jones, to convert on early downs and short-yardage situations will keep Griffin III and the passing game out of uncomfortable situations.
"[There are] a lot of plays that you can run if you stay in positive downs and distances," Gruden said. "You get in third down in the red zone, it's difficult. You get all out pressure or you get people dropping eight, very difficult."
The Redskins are also mindful of costly turnovers in the red zone when Griffin III is faced with passing situations. Gruden knows his passer will need a high degree of focus and accuracy to consistently succeed in those situations.
"So, it's important for our quarterbacks to see throws and anticipate. Throwing windows are going to be tight, and then if they drop eight, keep the plays alive and move around," Gruden said. "All that comes with experience, reps, and the more we get, [the better]."
Check out images from the Washington Redskins' second mandatory minicamp practice on Wednesday, June 17, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
In order to get that experience, Griffin III and the offense have been sparring with the Redskins' defense, with the fourth-year quarterback catching on to first-year defensive coordinator Joe Barry's scheme.
Griffin III said, "It was great going against our defense getting those different looks with the different blitz packages that they have."
Gruden agrees with Griffin III, adding "Barry is doing a great job with mixing up his coverages," which will prepare the offense to play against a variety of defenses when the season comes.
With the offense expected to rebound greatly in 2015, red zone efficiency should see a similar increase. Add in the extra practice the offense has been putting into these specific situations, and the unit could be dangerous in these spots come the regular season.
"It's consistency," first-year offensive line coach Bill Callahan said. "Whatever the play selection is, you have to be consistent, reflective and efficient in that area. Run or pass, it doesn't matter."