Interim head coach Bill Callahan’s first practice featured a litany of changes, but one of the most noticeable was the pair of college referees to help solve one of the Redskins biggest problems: penalties.
“I think it’s great to have them,” Callahan said during the post-game press conference. “It’s something that takes the burden off the coaches and makes the player more aware of what he should do and having the proper leverage and the proper hand placement to prevent a penalty.”
The Redskins have become one of the most penalized teams in the league during the first half of the season. They’re currently third behind the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons with 45 flags thrown on them for 331 yards.
Holding, specifically on offense, has become a particularly difficult problem; the Redskins are tied for second in the league with 12 offensive holding calls. What’s more, after combining last year’s numbers -- the Redskins finished second in 2018 with 26 -- the team has more offensive holding calls than any team in the past 21 regular season games.
The calls have become drive-killers for the Redskins’ offense, but many players on the offense feel think having the officials in practice will go a long way in fixing the problem.
“I think it can help because obviously they see something that we don’t see,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “I can’t pinpoint and say every penalty is not a penalty, but it helps figure out what [the officials] are looking at to help up change some things around.”
It’s worth noting that the offensive line, which is more prone to holding calls, played relatively clean in its most recent game against the New England Patriots. Outside of one holding call, which was declined, Washington’s penalties came from other position groups.
Additionally, not every holding penalty comes from the offensive line. An example of that was during the game against the Giants where Deshazor Everett was called for holding during a punt return.
But there is no denying that these calls have come at inopportune moments for the offense and come at a massive detriment to the team. This was apparent twice against the Giants on first down plays when offensive holding calls put the offense in first-and-long situations. Both of those drives ultimately ended in punts.
In total, the Redskins’ 12 offensive holding penalties have cost the offense 128 yards.
“That’s what’s killing us,” Moses said. “Even when we do move the ball and we’re getting positive plays you get set back 5-10 yard penalties and it just kills the offense. It kills the vibe. We gotta find a way to do much better as a team and we gotta do better to stay on the field.”
The officials were back at practice on Thursday and Friday as well, and it’s possible that Callahan’s practices will feature them more regularly. Callahan said there were officials at every practice when he was coaching for the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Jets.
“It was pretty much modus operandi,” Callahan said Thursday. “So that, to me, was something that we needed to put another focus on in an area that we can improve in, and hopefully it will pay off.”
Callahan stressed again that he wants his players to be more aware and disciplined during a play. The team has a penalty report that the coaches review with the players every day, but Callahan wants the players to be conscious of the penalties on the field as well.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Callahan said. “There are no guarantees, but I just think it gives us the chance to be fully aware of what we’re doing and to be more disciplined along the line of scrimmage…so cleaning up our hands, cleaning up the line of scrimmage procedure penalties and being more diligent.”