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First-down issues lead to third-down problems

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First-down issues lead to third-down problems

As noted here earlier today, the Redskins’ issues on third down have not prevented them from being a pretty good offense. Still, going three for 20 on third downs over the past two games is not the way you want to live if you want to be a consistently effective offense.

If you ask any coach about third down conversions he’ll tell you that what really matters is what happens on first down. Staying out of third and long, they’ll tell you, is the key to having success on third down.

So let’s put the last two games under the microscope and look at the Redskins’ third downs and what happened leading up to the third down situations.

On the first plays of the series that wound up with third downs, the Redskins ran on 13 of the 22 and called passing plays on nine of them, including one sack. [Note: twice the Redskins got first downs on third downs due to penalties, so those plays do not count in the stats.]

But, regardless of the play call, their third down problems start on first down. They are gaining .55 yards on each first-down passing play in a series that ends up in a third-down situation and .61 yards on each running play.

In other words, they are facing second and nine-plus and ending up with third down and, on average, 8.6 yards to go.

So, there you go, the same old stuff that we’ve heard from coaches for years being played out in real life, at least over these two games.

It’s one of those things that becomes a cliché because it’s true.

The third-down series over the past two games:

vs. Bucs

1st down play: Run (5 to go after penalty), -3
Third down play: (8 to go) Pass 6

1st down play: Pass 2
3rd down play: (5 to go) Run 8 TD (after recovered fumble in end zone)

1st down play: Run -1
3rd down play: Pass (11 to go) 3

1st down play: Pass incomplete
3rd down play: (13 to go) Pass 12 (converted on fourth down)

1st down play: Run 2
3rd down play: (1 to go) None, offside penalty gives WAS first down

1st down play: Run -4
3rd down play: (11 to go) Run 1

1st down play: (25 to go after penalty) Pass incomplete
3rd down play: (15 to go) Scramble 8

1st down play: Run -2
3rd down play: (19 to go) No play, roughing the passer penalty

1st down play: Run 1
3rd down play: (19 to go after unnecessary roughness penalty) Pass -1

1st down play: Run 1
3rd down play: (9 to go) Pass 30 (RG3 lateral to Banks, lateral back to RG3)

1st down play: Run 2
3rd down play: (2 to go) Run 0

1st down play: Pass incomplete
3rd down play: (12 to go) Pass incomplete

1st down play: Run 0
3rd down play: (10 to go) Scramble 9

vs. Falcons

1st down play: Sack -7
3rd down play: (7 to go) Pass incomplete

1st down play: Pass 2
3rd down play: (7 to go) Pass incomplete

1st down play: Run 2
3rd down play: (8 to go) Pass 5

1st down play: Run 5
3rd down play: (2 to go) Run -2

1st down play: Run 0
3rd down play: (2 to go) Run 1

1st down play: (goal to go at the 9) Pass 4
3rd down play: (goal to go at the 3) Sacked -2 (RG3 concussion play)

1st down play: Pass 4
3rd down play: (7 to go) Pass incomplete

1st down play: Run 1
3rd down play: (9 to go) Pass 77 TD

1st down play: Run 6
3rd down play: (10 to go) Pass 7

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Redskins offseason questions: Will Scot McCloughan go defense in 1st round?

Redskins offseason questions: Will Scot McCloughan go defense in 1st round?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: It's tag day

Will the Redskins go with a defensive player in the first round of the 2017 Draft?

Finlay: The Redskins haven't drafted a defensive player in the first round since 2011 when the franchise grabbed Ryan Kerrigan with the 16th pick. In fact, the team has only drafted five defensive players in the first round over the last 15 years. 

History suggests Washington will stay away from a defensive player, but sources in Ashburn have suggested otherwise. Assuming the talent is there when the 'Skins pick at No. 17, Scot McCloughan would like to bolster the team's defensive line specifically. 

Things will get complicated should Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook slide to 17. Rich Tandler certainly would like to see the Burgundy and Gold add a top-flight running back.

Tandler: Many fans believe that conducting a draft is like going into a grocery store with a list. Defensive lineman is at the top of the list so you go to aisle 12 and put a DL in the cart. Safety is next on the list so you push the cart over to that aisle and pick out one of those.

No, a draft is much more unpredictable. There might not be a defensive lineman who is close to worthy of the No. 17 pick when the Redskins are on the clock. Talk of taking the best available player is like fingernails on a chalkboard to some. But if you’re reaching for need in a draft, you’re losing that draft. Sure, if a player in a position of need is just a spot or two down from the best available you think about it. Still, staying true to your board is the way to build a team.

The other thing to consider here is that we haven’t gone through free agency yet. Needs will shift after that. Suppose the Redskins sign two starting-caliber D-linemen and lose both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson in free agency? Defensive line is no longer a five-alarm priority and receiver will be. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins free agent WR Pierre Garçon has simple question: 'Y'all hiring?'

Redskins free agent WR Pierre Garçon has simple question: 'Y'all hiring?'

Twice in the last five seasons Pierre Garçon logged more than 1,000 yards receiving as a member of the Washington Redskins, including the 2016 season. He's caught 376 passes in Washington for 21 touchdowns over 74 games.

Outside of a foot injury that cost his six games in 2012, Garçon has been arguably the Redskins most durable wide receiver, and he's known to be a hard worker in the weight room and the practice field. 

Despite all that, Garçon doesn't know that he will be back with the Burgundy and Gold once free agency opens. In fact, that uncertainty led the 30-year-old wideout to post a simple question on his Instagram page.

#YallHiring?

A post shared by Pierre Garcon (@pierregarcon) on

The top of the Redskins offseason questions remains QB Kirk Cousins. Garçon and fellow wideout DeSean Jackson are headed for free agency, as is standout defensive lineman Chris Baker. Reports show that the team has made little to no contact with any of the players or their representatives, though many conversations could be planned for the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis later this month. 

Garçon's question seems simple, but the answer remains a mystery. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!