Tale of the turnovers
Plenty will be written over the next six months or so about what the Redskins need to do to take the next step and become true Super Bowl contenders. But the biggest factor in determining if they rise up NFL power rankings or slide back into their losing ways is their ability to take the ball away on defense and to protect it on offense.
Washington did pretty well in turnover margin in 2015 they finished at a plus-five, with 27 takeaways and 22 giveaways. That was tied for 10th in the NFL. As Scot McCloughan tries to build the team’s talent base, the Redskins will have to continue to be on the plus side of the turnover ratio in order to stay competitive.
Today we’ll look at the takeaway side of the equation, specifically fumbles recovered, how they performed in 2015 and what they’ll need to do going forward. Later this week we’ll look at interceptions by the defense the giveaway side of the equation.
The Redskins’ 16 fumble recoveries were tied for the most in the NFL. Here is their record broken down by how many fumbles they recovered during the games.
So they were 5-5 in games where the recovered at least one fumble. That’s not what one might expect but you don’t have to look real deep to find out why they didn’t do better when recovering fumbles. They drove for just two touchdowns after recovering fumbles all year. That doesn’t count DeAngelo Hall’s fumble returned for a TD against the Eagles but it’s still a pretty meager output. A total of 20 teams that recovered fewer fumbles than the Redskins drove at least as many touchdowns off of them as did Washington and nine scored more.
The alarming aspect of the Redskins’ takeaway total is that so many of them came on fumbles They led the league in both forced fumbles with 36 and fumble recoveries with 16. If you asked Joe Barry about that he would say that it was because they worked so hard in training camp and in practice during the season at stripping the ball and fighting for it when it came loose.
Certainly they did that but so does every other NFL team. Generally speaking, fumble recoveries have a great deal of luck attached to them. As they say in the stats business, fumble recovery totals aren’t “sticky” meaning they don’t tend to hold up from year to year. Teams that are good in fumble recoveries one year are often bad at it the next and vice versa.
An example to illustrate the non-sticky aspect: In 2014, five teams recovered 13 or more opponents’ fumbles. Last year seven teams recovered at least 13 fumbles and none of them were on the list of the five from the year before. Similar results year after year show indicate a strong element of luck was involved in averaging one fumble recovery per game In short, the Redskins can’t rely on being able to get as many takeaways via the fumble in 2016 as they did last year.
The league average for fumble recoveries for the season is 9.7 per team so the Redskins can expect to see their fumble recover total gravitate towards that number. If they are going to maintain their takeaway total they will have to get more interceptions. We’ll take a look at that next.