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For Kyle Shanahan, Third Downs Are Key

The Redskins' offense struggled in most categories last season, but problems on third downs were most prevalent, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said.

Last season, the offense was 31st in the NFL on third downs, converting just 29 percent of opportunities. The New Orleans Saints led the NFL converting 49 percent of third downs, followed by the New England Patriots at 48 percent.

In an exclusive interview on "Redskins Nation" on Comcast SportsNet this week, Shanahan said he expected the offense to improve in that category as he continues to learn and adjust to the personnel.

"Whenever you struggle on third downs, it's tough for anyone to get a rhythm," Shanahan said. "That's the main thing going into next season. We have to be able to move the chains.

"It starts with that first first down. If you can get some first downs going, then you can mix in some more runs and some more passes. You can get a little better feel."

Shanahan joined the Redskins last offseason as offensive coordinator after serving in the same capacity with the Houston Texans the previous two years.

His 2009 Texans offense was ranked No. 4 overall in offense, first in passing offense and 15th in third downs.

As he learned the Redskins' personnel last season, he felt he improved as a play-caller.

"You have to get to know your team," he said. "I think I'll do a better job next year calling plays...It was kind of a work in progress for everyone last season. You [have to] get in a rhythm, start getting first downs and get going on long drives."

In terms of personnel, the quarterback position remains the focus for the Redskins this offseason.

It's uncertain if 12-year veteran Donovan McNabb will be back after he was benched late last season and Rex Grossman is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

"We still haven't solidified that spot," Kyle Shanahan said. "Going into the draft, we're evaluating them just like we would any other position. You're always looking for that franchise quarterback who can lead your team for the next 10 years.

"I feel if you look at all 32 teams there's probably only about eight [franchise quarterbacks]. And if you're not one of those eight, pretty much in every city they're trying to replace you. It's a tough position, probably the toughest position in the world in terms of athletes, in my opinion.

"You're always looking for that franchise quarterback and if you get one, then good things will happen."

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