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Monday six pack: Redskins' turbo offense very efficient

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Monday six pack: Redskins' turbo offense very efficient

My six pack of observations from the Washington Redskins’ 45-41 win over the Bears on Sunday:

1. The Redskins’ defense was not good yesterday but it was not as bad as it looked. There is no reason to celebrate giving up 41 points, 140 yards on the ground and to have Josh McCown, who last threw a pass in the 2011 season finale, throw for 204 yards, post a 119.6 passer rating, and scramble 4 times for 33 yards. But if you look at the 41 points, you can point the finger directly at the special teams for seven of them on Devin Hester’s punt return. Another Bears touchdown came two plays after Charles Tillman picked off a Robert Griffin III pass and returned it to the 10 yard line. And, while we’re at it, Chicago had to move just 18 yards to get into position for a field goal after the Redskins had to punt from inside their one yard line. So that makes 27 points that the defense was really responsible for. Throw in the fact that the defense scored a TD on Brian Orakpo’s first interception at any level of football and it’s not as bad a defensive showing as it appears to be at first glance.

2. It’s not a coincidence that Alfred Morris had his best rushing game of the year on a day when Griffin was so effective on the ground. And, of course, Morris’ effectiveness opened room for Griffin to roam, giving the game a decided 2012 feel on offense. Morris got his season high in carries with 19, and his second-highest yardage total of the year with 95. The key was that the Redskins never got away from him. The Redskins had 12 possessions in the game and Morris got at least one carry on all but two of them. One of those possessions lasted just one play, Griffin’s first-down pass that Charles Tillman intercepted.

3. How good was Jordan Reed? He only played about half of the snaps (40 of 76) but he still was Griffin’s favorite target. Reed was targeted nine times and he caught nine passes. Many thought that the fade had been taken out of the Redskins’ playbook but Reed and Griffin executed it to perfection. Reed lined up wide right and was being covered by safety Chris Conte. He took a quick jab step to the inside and then headed for the corner. Griffin’s rainbow pass was perfect and Reed managed to get both feet in before falling out of bounds. That is the kind of play that will help boost the Redskins’ red zone percentage. They had four touchdowns in five red zone possessions yesterday after going 0-3 against the Cowboys. Reed has two good things going for him. For one, he’s highly confident without being cocky. And, he used to be a quarterback so he’s smart and has a deep understanding of the game.

4. The Redskins had 73 offensive snaps yesterday and, going off of the NFL play by play, they ran 13 of them out of the no huddle or “Turbo” offense. The snaps came in four different drives although they did not run the no huddle during the entirety of any possession. Still, they scored a touchdown at the end of every drive where they went to the Turbo at some point during the possession. On those 13 plays they gained a total of 149 yards, an average of 11.5 yards per play. Doing the math, since the Redskins gained 499 yards of total offense they gained an average of 5.8 yards on their other 60 snaps. This doesn’t mean that they can or should go to the Turbo full time. They can’t change personnel while they are going no huddle so they have to stay in the base formation they started the drive with. And utilizing a zone-blocking scheme you could just as easily wear out your offensive line going Turbo full time as you could wear down the defense. Still, as Griffin gets more experience running it we could see it more and more.

5. I’ll admit that I’m not much of an expert on special teams X’s and O’s but it seemed to me that Devin Hester’s TD Punt return was the result of Sav Rocca’s 53-yard line drive punt, Niles Paul going out of bounds as he went downfield for coverage so that he ended up chasing Hester from the side instead of slowing him down by coming straight on, and the other 10 players failing to contain. Rocca may have outkicked his coverage to some extent but the hang time was 4.9 seconds, respectable for a kick that distance. I had a feeling that the Bears were going to try an onside kick as they huddled before the kick (no, I didn’t say or tweet it so you’ll have to take my word for it). It was just sheer blind luck from Eric Weems being slightly offside, not a heads-up play by the special teams unit, that kept the Bears from stealing an extra possession in a game where every possession mattered.

6. Did the win save the Redskins’ season? Only time will tell. It was certainly a great boost for the offense to gain 499 yards and put up 38 points (subtracting the seven from the Orakpo touchdown). They had scoring drives of 60, 80, 74, 83, 80, and 80 yards. Yes, the Bears have a pretty bad defense (bottom third of most statistical categories except for takeaways) but the Redskins will face a lot of bad defenses the rest of the way. The defense, as noted, didn’t play as poorly as many think. Special teams will have to be fixed, perhaps by just booting every kick out of bounds to prevent a big play. Last year, my pat answer going into any game and in almost any situation during a game was, “if they have RG3, they have a chance”. Now that the Redskins have that Robert Griffin back, the pat answer is back.

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How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

The Redskins ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in a number of defensive categories in 2016, and the first and second round selections in the 2017 Draft should help to address that.

A huge part of the Washington defensive problems stemmed from an inability to get off the field on third downs, and Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson should immediately provide a pass rush boost. In 2016, the duo combined for 18.5 sacks, 8.5 coming from Anderson and another 10 from Allen, two huge pieces for the excellent Alabama defense.

On the pro level, Anderson may actually be in position for more sacks as he's likely to play outside linebacker in the Redskins 3-4 scheme. Allen will be more of an interior presence, a natural fit for the 'Skins defensive end spot in the 3-4.

That doesn't mean the two won't compete to hit quarterbacks. 

Asked Saturday if there would be a bet between the two college teammates about who gets more sacks their rookie season, Anderson quickly responded, "definitely."

Though he was surprised by the bet, Allen wasn't going to back down from the challenge. (Full video above)

"I guess there is now, I didn't know about it 'til now," Allen said. 

As for the stakes of the bet, Allen said the pair of rookies will figure that out behind closed doors. 

"His bank account is a little longer than mine so we will have to figure something else out," Anderson said.

What's clear from hanging out with both players is their familiarity with one another will help both players transition to the NFL. Allen and Anderson said they had an emotional response when they learned they would continue to play together in Washington. 

"There's very few players that have better film or resume than this guy right here," Allen said of Anderson. 

Anderson, as the Redskins press group has quickly learned, has a certain way with words. Honest and funny, but to the point.

"I'm excited to have one of my dogs with me here," he said of Allen. 

The Redskins ranked ninth in the NFL in sacks in 2016, but will lose Trent Murphy for four games to start the year. Sacks are just one metric to measure defensive success, though an easily quantifiable and fun metric for fans.

Where Washington has to improve is on 3rd downs. In 2016, they allowed a confounding 97 third down conversions, good for 31st in the league. There's only 32 teams. What's worse? The 'Skins gave nine fourth down conversions too.

Regardless of sack totals, Allen and Anderson were brought to Washington to help this defense get off the field. Coming from the Crimson Tide, the two rookies seem up for the challenge. 

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Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Since we don’t know how the careers of the players picked by the Redskins yesterday will turn out we must dig in a little more to come up with a grade for the draft headed up by Bruce Allen. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Strategy—B

There really isn’t enough to love or to hate here. They didn’t do much wheeling and dealing while on the clock, making only a minor deal with the Vikings to move up two spots in the sixth round in exchange for moving down 10 slots in the seventh.

For the record, the trade (picks 201 and 220 from Washington to Minnesota in exchange for picks 199 and 230) was just about a wash on the Jimmy Johnson trade chart, with the Redskins giving up a statistically insignificant one point of value.

Whether center Chase Roullier, the player they traded up to draft, makes the team and has an impact or not is not going to make or break the draft but it should be noted that they gave up something of value to get him so it was a player they wanted to make sure they got as his name was still on the board.

The deals that got them up to 10 picks had already been made by Scot McCloughan on draft day last year as he added picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds with various trades.

Perhaps they deserve the most credit for a potential deal they did not make. As their first-round pick got closer and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen remained on the board it had to be tempting for them to spend a mid-round pick to jump up and grab him before anyone else could. But Gruden said that they had a number of players to choose from as the pick approached and they decided to stay put. The gamble paid off as Allen fell into their laps at pick No. 17.

Talent/fit/needs—A-

The Redskins needed to bolster their defense and they certainly gave it a go. Their first three picks were on defense as were four of their first five and six of 10 overall.

But the raw number of the picks doesn’t really tell the story; it’s the value of the picks that really matters. According to that Jimmy Johnson pick value chart, they spend 1,596 points on defense and 126 points on offense.

They hit on their biggest needs with their first two picks. They had not drafted a defensive lineman in the first round since 1997 and the neglect of the position was evident. In Allen they got a player with Pro Bowl potential in their biggest area of need.

Allen will help the pass rush from the inside and then in the second round they acquired some edge rushing ability with Ryan Anderson. It seems that this pick was strongly influenced by Scot McCloughan’s draft board. His height, weight, and combine numbers were not what a lot of teams are looking for in an edge rusher but his tough mentality and obvious love for the game are attributes that McCloughan valued.

Although Gruden expressed his confidence in Rob Kelley to be his running back it appeared to most outside observers that an upgrade was needed and they got that in Samaje Perine. You can’t have too many good corners and Bashaud Breeland is set to be a 2018 free agent so they took Fabian Moreau in the third round. They had no backup center Roullier could develop into that spot. Gruden said earlier this offseason that they needed a blocking tight end and that is what Jeremy Sprinkle is.

They didn’t hit on all their needs. With the top three inside linebackers set to be free agents next year many thought they would spend a top pick there. And although there were a few possible nose tackles on the board in the later rounds they bypassed that position. You can’t solve everything in one draft but the Redskins have now had eight drafts since converting to the 3-4 defense and they still haven’t found a solution at nose tackle.

As far as value goes, it doesn’t get much better than Allen, who was a consensus top-five talent who lasted until the 17th pick. Moreau may have been a first-round pick before tearing a pectoral muscle lifting weights during his pro day.

On the other end of the value scale, the fourth round seemed to be way too early to take safety Montae Nicholson. There is something to be said for taking a guy with good measurables who didn’t have good game tape and taking a shot at developing him. But the fourth round is too soon for taking such a chance.

Overall—B+

After their first two picks, they didn’t shy away from red flags. Moreau and Nicholson both have injuries that will keep them out of action until sometime in training camp. Sprinkle had a highly-publicized shoplifting citation that got him suspended from Arkansas’ bowl game. Seventh-round pick Josh Harvey-Clemons failed multiple drug tests during college.

They did stay away from players with histories of high-profile violent incidents like Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon, and Caleb Brantley.

How those red-flag players turn out will be the key to this draft. It’s fine to take some chances, especially when you go into the draft with 10 picks. But you have better win more than you lose.

There were enough players taken who seem to be sure bets to be productive, if there is such a thing in the draft, to make it unlikely that the draft will be a total bust. Allen, Anderson, and Perine are clean prospects who have very high floors. Allen and Anderson may have Pro Bowl ceilings.

Given that, they seem to be assured of having a least a productive draft (again, with the caveat that nothing in the draft is certain). If Sprinkle develops into a good third tight end who can block and be a threat to catch a pass, that’s a plus. If Moreau can develop into a starter, this could be a pretty good draft. If sixth-round WR Robert Davis can contribute on special teams and be a productive fourth or fifth wide receiver, that would be another plus.

In short, the Redskins did some good work towards giving this draft a chance to be a success. Now it’s up to the coaches, to luck, and seeing how players who are projected to play well at age 22 actually perform on the field when they get older and suddenly have a six-figure salary. 

MORE REDSKINS: Clear winner from Redskins 2017 Draft?