The Washington Redskins only need a handful of yards per game to improve. The trick is finding a way to get those yards. But when it comes to the stats, this one doesn't lie: The better your average starting field position is, the greater an offense you become and the more you will win.
It makes sense. It's also a telling statistic. Here's a look at some of the numbers:
The Redskins ranked 31st in the NFL in average starting field position, with 74.9 yards to the goal line. Only Oakland finished worse. Yes, this stat makes a tremendous difference. Look at the top 13 teams in this statistic: None of them finished with a losing record and only Miami (first in the NFL) was at .500. Nine of them made the postseason. To crack that top 13, the Redskins would need to shave 3.5 yards off that average. It doesn't seem like a lot, but it clearly makes a difference.
The Redskins ranked 15th in this statistic in 2012, a season in which the offense shined and they were much better in turnover margin. They are last for the 2013-14 seasons combined.
Of the bottom 14 teams, only three finished with winning records (though sub.-500 Carolina, Arizona and Pittsburgh made the playoffs). And of these teams, nine ranked 20th or worse when it came to points per game (and 11 were 17 or lower). Other factors enter the equation and can offset this issue. The Steelers and Saints, for example, have top-level quarterbacks and therefore could bail themselves out of bad spots. Most of the other teams did not (San Diego, with Philip Rivers, ranked 17th in points per game; 25th in average field position).
The Redskins, clearly, did not have that luxury and therefore need every yard. The offense can help with more sustained drives, leaving the opposition in worse starting position. Last year, the Redskins ranked 29th in average starting field position by opposing offenses – 70 yards from the end zone. Of the bottom 13 teams in this category, only Denver finished with a winning record and made the playoffs. The worst six teams in this category combined for 19 wins.
The difference between the Redskins and the top 10 teams in this category: 3.6 yards.
The Redskins ranked 31st in this category for the 2013-14 seasons combined.
But an improved defense, fewer turnovers and a better return game can help. We don't know if the defense will be that improved, but they have a chance to definitely be better. If they can create more turnovers, that improves the starting field position. If they commit fewer, it helps the defense's starting field position. And the better they do on returns (I'm more confident in their punt returns), the better off they'll be. It's simple. The tough part, though, is doing it.