Bill Callahan made penalties a point of emphasis in his first week as interim head coach.
"A huge focus for us as we work hard is to try to eliminate penalties within the unit and on each side of the ball," he said after practice Wednesday.
Callahan had good reason for his concerns; the Redskins ranked third to last in the league in average number of penalties accrued per game (9.0) heading into Sunday's game against Miami. In total, the team had been set back 331 yards on 45 penalties in just five games.
Part of Callahan's plan to try and rectify those issues was to bring in college referees to practice in order to help each player better understand what will and won't get called.
"[It] makes the player more aware of what he should do and having the proper leverage and the proper hand placement to prevent a penalty,” Callahan said.
Specifically, holding calls across the offensive line have played the biggest role. After the Week 5 loss to New England, the team had been marked for 15 offensive holding calls -- only Jacksonville had more with 16 -- and had five more that were dismissed.
“We're just frustrated. These penalties keep happening," tackle Donald Penn vented to the media on the heels of the Patriots game. "It's hard when you get a nice positive first down play, then you come in second down and get a penalty and now you turn second and five into second and 15 or 20."
Fortunately for Penn and the rest of the O-Line, things changed in a big way on Sunday, as Washington's offense went the entire 60 minutes without receiving a single flag for the first time in 2019.
Right tackle Morgan Moses, who touched on the offense's efficiency to the media in the post-game locker room, was among many who welcomed that sight.
“When you’re ahead in the chains and you’re in 2nd-and-5, 2nd-and-4, the opportunities of success go up," Moses said. "Just as an offense, the playbook is opened -- you can do a lot more things."
The development wasn't lost on offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell, the team's new offensive play-caller, either.
"I cannot say enough about the offensive line today,” he said. “Getting Brandon Scherff and Chase Roullier back, in addition to those veterans on the left side in Ereck [Flowers] and Donald [Penn], and then obviously when Morgan [Moses] goes down there [and] Geron [Christian] comes in."
Off of a season-high 23 carries, veteran running back Adrian Peterson garnered 118 yards on the ground -- more than triple his previous highest total in a game this year.
“Without those guys, we’re done for. That’s one thing I’ve learned: you don’t have an offensive line or defensive line, you’re gonna be in trouble as an offensive and defensive unit," Peterson said. "Yeah, I gotta take my hat off to those guys. [I have to] make sure those guys know that they’re appreciated.”
Given the coaching staff's newfound emphasis on the ground game -- Callahan made sure to mention that it would be a focal point moving forward in his introductory presser -- the offensive line's ability to avoid flags will be even more critical as the season progresses.
"I thought, by and large, the offensive line played well," noted Callahan, who served as the Redskins' offensive line coach before his promotion. "I think they understood that it was important to stay penalty-free in terms of what we wanted them to do and that is to run the ball and to utilize the run action."
Still, one clean game does not guarantee the holding calls will go away for good. It will be up to the unit in the coming games to prove that their performance against the Dolphins wasn't just a fluke.
"Next week's crew may call completely different and emphasize something different. We may play different," Callahan said on Monday. "I can't predict what's going to happen…[but] I hope we can end up with no penalties and all that."