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Big deficits were rare for 2012 Redskins

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Big deficits were rare for 2012 Redskins

There have been a lot of questions about the Redskins’ play calling during their first two games, particularly the lack of runs by Robert Griffin III. Both Mike and Kyle Shanahan have said that it has been game situations, not Griffin’s health, that have put the shackles on the quarterback who was so dynamic last year.

Here is Kyle’s explanation:
“I just think it’s been the situation in games. It’s definitely not the plan going into it. I don’t think in any game last year we were ever behind that much. In every game last year it was a pretty close game except for maybe the Pittsburgh game, but from what I remember it was still close late in the third quarter. It wasn’t three scores in the second quarter. When you get into a two-minute type offense at the start of a third quarter, you are not going to run him intentionally. If people aren’t open, then the quarterback scrambles, but people were open in these two games and I think that’s why he’s had pretty good statistics throwing the ball, but you scramble when no one is there and the defense allows you to and it hasn’t been that way.”
Let’s take a look at this year compared to last year and see how this explanation holds up.

Here’s a game-by-game look at the largest deficit they faced in each game last year and the quarter in which they faced it (games won are in bold).

NO 7-3 Q1
STL 31-28 Q4
CIN 38-24 Q4
TB 22-21 Q4
ATL 24-17 Q4
MIN 9-0 Q1
NYG 20-13 Q4
PIT 27-9 Q3
CAR 21-6 Q4
PHI Never trailed
DAL 3-0 Q1
NYG 16-10 Q3
BAL 28-20 Q4
CLE 7-0 Q1
PHI 7-0 Q1
DAL 7-0 Q1
SEA 24-14 Q4

It was somewhat surprising to see that they trailed at some point in every game but one; the only wire-to-wire win was the first game against the Eagles. But the deficits were only more than two scores once, during the game that Shanahan noted, the loss in Pittsburgh. That one was 20-6 at halftime and after a Kai Forbath field goal the Steelers pounded out a drive and scored to make it 27-9 with 5:17 left. That 18-point deficit was their biggest at any point during the season.

The only other times thy got down by two scores were against the Vikings and Bengals. In the Minnesota game they answered three first-quarter field goals by scoring 24 unanswered points. Cincinnati scored touchdowns on two fourth-quarter drives to turn a 24-24 tie into a 38-24 game midway through the final period.

This year it only took until 1:02 was left in the first half of their first game before the Redskins faced a bigger deficit than they faced in all of 2012. That’s when Michael Vick scored to put the Eagles up by 19 at 26-7. A minute and a half into the second half Philly scored again to go up by 26 points.

That stood as the high deficit of the year only until 8:20 remained in the third quarter against the Packers when they fell behind 31-0.

That’s a micro look at the issues. The website Football Perspective has a way of taking the macro view. They have a stat they call the game script. They track each team’s lead or deficit every second of every game and then use that to calculate that teams average margin of lead or deficit during the game (or season).

In 2012, the Redskins’ game script was a plus-1.9. This year the game script against the Eagles was minus-12 and when they played the Packers it was minus-17.9.

So even during their 3-6 start they were more competitive in every game and in most cases much more competitive. It would logically follow, then, that the play calling this year would be vastly different from what it was last year.

It should be noted that we don’t really know if Griffin is healthy enough to run as much as he did last year. For the time being, the way the games have gone has rendered that a moot point.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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.

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