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A simple answer to the Redskins’ home vs. road mystery

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A simple answer to the Redskins’ home vs. road mystery

It’s been a feast and famine season for the Redskins. Everyone knows it. They eat well at home. The Redskins are 5-1 at FedEx Field with five straight wins after a season-opening loss to the Dolphins (which gets to be more of a head-scratcher as the season goes on). On the road, they starve, with a record of 0-5.

Rarely does a press conference or locker room media scrum go by without the subject of the home vs. road records coming up. It’s been the subject of countless blog posts and talk radio segments. But the disparity between the Redskins’ home and road record is no great mystery. In fact, it’s pretty simple.

By almost any measure, they have played better teams on the road than they have at home—much better, in fact.

Let’s look at the simplest measure of a team’s quality, their win-loss record. The six teams the Redskins have played at FedEx Field are the Dolphins (4-7), Giants (5-6), Eagles (4-7), Bucs (5-6), Saints (4-7), and Rams (4-7). That comes to an aggregate record of 26-40, a .394 winning percentage.

On the road, they’ve gone up against the Patriots (10-1), Jets (6-5), Giants (5-6), Panthers (11-0), and Falcons (6-5). That rolls up to at 38-17 record, a .691 winning percentage.

In short, the average road opponent is 8-3. The average home opponent is 4-7. It doesn’t take an advanced degree in football analytics to figure out the Redskins’ road schedule has been brutally tough while the home schedule has been relatively soft.

But if you want to dive into some other measures of how well or poorly a team is playing, let’s do it. Here some other stats with the average of the Redskins’ home and road opponents in each of them.

*Through Week 11

The last set of numbers may explain Kirk Cousins’ great split in his performances at home and on the road. At FedEx Field, facing pass defenses that are worse than average (the average NFL passer rating is 88.4) Cousins has 74.7 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions and a passer rating of 113.0. Playing on the road against pass defenses that are better than the norm in the league, Cousins has completed 61.9 percent of his passes, thrown five touchdowns and eight interceptions and posting a passer rating of 69.8.

The Redskins will go the rest of the regular season without playing a quality team at home. Their two remaining home opponents are the Cowboys (3-8) and Bills (5-6). That’s a winning percentage of .364. If they make the playoffs they likely would host a team that would test their home-field advantage but we will see about that down the road.

But if they finish the season winless on the road, they won’t be able to say they lost to all quality opponents. If they can’t get a win in Chicago (5-6), Philadelphia (4-7), or Dallas (3-8) you can genuinely say that something isn’t right when this team hits the road. In fact, it would be fair to question their roadworthiness if they don’t win two out of those three.

 

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.