With still half of the season remaining for the Redskins, players and coaches know that better offensive production in the red zone will be key as the team looks to make another playoff push.
The Washington Redskins have had no issue moving the ball up and down the field this season. But once the offense gets into the red zone, the unit has struggled consistently punching its ticket into the end zone.
In eight games, the Redskins have converted just 40 percent of their red zone appearances into touchdowns. To make matters more frustrating, in Washington's three losses and one tie this season, they're a combined 6-of-17 inside the 20-yard line.
Wide receiver Pierre Garçon said the only way the Redskins can become more productive in the red zone (they converted on nearly 60 percent of chances in 2015) is through "more studying, more focus [and] more communication."
"It'll change," Garçon recently said. "You can't have the same problem over and over. That's one thing with football. You can mess up, but you can't mess up on the same thing over and over."
The Redskins have had two costly red zone turnovers in two of their losses this season, as quarterback Kirk Cousins threw a late interception in the end zone against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 while Matt Jones coughed up the football trying to gain extra yards near the goal line two weeks ago against the Detroit Lions.
While both plays were equally frustrating, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is confident the red zone woes can be corrected.
"You know, we have to get better in the red zone, without a doubt," Gruden said on a conference call earlier this week. "The windows get tighter. I think the running game will help. …So we just have to continue to work and get better. We're not going to concede to anything. We understand the importance of the red zone and converting drives into touchdowns. Whether it's run or pass, we've got to take a long look at it and find our best ways to get the ball to our best weapons down there and convert."
One way in which the Redskins may be able to fix the issue is through the team's stable of running backs.
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All three of Jones' rushing touchdowns this year have come from inside the 20-yard line, while rookie Robert Kelley has a one-yard receiving touchdown and a four-yard rushing touchdown to his credit.
Third-down back Chris Thompson also has two touchdowns – one receiving and one rushing.
"It keeps the defense on their heels when you can have success running the football," wide receiver Jamison Crowder said. "They have to honor the run game. Once they do that, it opens up the passing game."
And in the passing game, both Crowder and tight end Jordan Reed are threats inside the 20-yard line as are the rest of the Redskins' receiving threat, although Reed has just two red zone touchdowns – both coming against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 – after collecting 10 such scores last season.
In the second half of the season, the Redskins face six teams currently in the top half of the league in terms of red zone defense.
Once the team returns from their bye, the red zone will be one of the areas the Redskins will be looking for improvement out of down the stretch.
"We're really trying to focus in on situational football – whether it's goal line, red zone, short yardage, four-minute – all those that come up in a game and are crucial in the outcome," Gruden said. "Those are big time. So we're definitely going to look at third down defense and red zone offense, and third down offense, for that matter."