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Monday six pack: Reed disappears from offense in second half

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Monday six pack: Reed disappears from offense in second half

My six pack of observations on Redskins-Cowboys:

—If you glance at the stat sheet it looks like Alfred Morris had a pretty respectable game against the Cowboys with 81 yards rushing on 16 carries. But 45 of those yards came on one touchdown run. It’s not as though the 45-yard run doesn’t “count”; it was a big play at the moment as it made it a one-score game. But on his other 15 carries he gained 36 yards, an average of 2.4 a carry. That’s not the kind of running we saw from Morris last year, the kind that sets up second and short or moves the chains. It’s been a pattern all year. Morris has four carries of 30 yards or more. Outside of those plays he is averaging 3.5 yards a carry.

—The performance of Robert Griffin III in this game can’t really be summed up in a bullet point but it’s safe to say it was up and down. He had his legs under him, no question about it. He was credited for 77 yards rushing but a pair of 15-yard penalties the defense incurred while he was scampering out of bounds pushed the net result of his runs over 100 yards. But you have to juxtapose that against him completing fewer than half of his passes for just the second time in his 21 NFL starts. The only other time he did that his receivers let him down as they dropped about 10 passes on a rainy day in Pittsburgh. He had a few drops and there were other issues that were out of his control like Santana Moss falling down on the interception in the end zone. But he flat-out misfired on some to open receivers.

—Jordan Reed went from potential star of the game in the first half to someone who needed to have his picture on a milk carton in the second. After being targeted five times and making four catches for 58 yards in the first half, Reed was targeted just once in the second. It’s possible that the Cowboys worked to take him out of the game but you’d have to think that Griffin would at least give him a chance to make a play. And if he’s not getting open, why not try Fred Davis? He played just 18 snaps. In a league where teams are trying to figure out how to get two pass-catching tight ends involved in their offenses all over the league, the Redskins, who have at least two such players (and maybe a third in Niles Paul), can’t get one TE to be consistently effective.

—For a couple of games, it looked like the Redskins had shaken the penalty bug that has plagued them since the start of the 2012 season. But after committing just nine penalties for 74 yards in their previous two games, the flags were flying against them last night. They racked up 12 for 104 yards including that bizarre flag drawn by special teams coach Keith Burns when the got too close to the sideline and ran into an official. The 104 yards is bad enough but there was hidden damage as well. Jerome Murphy was flagged for illegal motion on a punt that was downed at the 16. The Cowboys elected to have them re-kick and Dwayne Harris returned it for a touchdown. The penalty on Burns happened on that return so a simple five-yard penalty ended up costing an 86-yard return, seven points, and another 15 penalty yards.

—The fears that Tony Romo would eat up the Redskins’ defense did not materialize. After passing for 506 yards and five touchdowns against the Broncos, Romo passed for 170 and one on Sunday. No question, the Redskins played some solid defense and Dez Bryant caught just five passes for 36 yards. But I kind of had the feeling that the Dallas offense could have turned it up a notch if it needed to. After Kai Forbath missed a field goal that would have pulled the Redskins to within two points early in the fourth quarter, the Dallas offense flipped the switch to on. They moved 49 yards in nine plays to a Dan Bailey field goal that pushed the Cowboys’ lead to eight. Had the Redskins responded, I suspect that Romo could have cranked out another scoring drive.

—Back to Griffin, much is being made of the fact that he had only five interceptions all of last year and he has five in five games this year. There is no way to sugar coat that as he almost certainly will throw more interceptions as the year goes one. But it is not a particularly alarming statistic. For this season, 2.9 percent of his passes have been intercepted. The league average is 2.8 percent. Griffin is regressing to the mean. He’s gone from being extraordinary when it comes to protecting the ball to being average. That’s not particularly surprising when you look at the fact that he has take just 19 snaps with the Redskins in the lead this year. That’s 19 out of 341 total snaps, or just 5.6 percent.

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The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

Every NFL training camp is different, but there are a few consistent things you can count on happening at each one each year.

At some point, for example, a star will say that he's "just excited to hit a guy wearing a different colored jersey" after about a week of practicing against his teammates. Also on the list: a coach will tell reporters that his defense plans on being more aggressive and hopes to create more turnovers in the regular season.

One of the more pleasant camp traditions, meanwhile, is that undrafted rookie who goes from stand-in to stand out and makes the team by impressing in drills and preseason contests.

But while there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for trying to figure out who'll do that for the Redskins in 2017, let's instead look back at a handful of the players who've already accomplished that in the past with Washington. Here are the seven best undrafted free agents the franchise has unearthed since 2010.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER WITH KEY STATS FOR KIRK COUSINS IN 2017

Logan Paulsen (2010)

No one will ever mistake Logan Paulsen's film for Rob Gronkowski's, but the former UCLA Bruin held down the third tight end spot for the Redskins from 2010-2014.

His two best years came in 2012 and 2013, where he posted 25 and 28 catches respectively, scored four total times and was on the receiving end of this magical fourth-down pass from Robert Griffin III against the Giants, a play that might've just been the peak of Griffin's rookie year. Now 30, Paulsen is reuniting with Kyle Shanahan out in San Francisco, continuing to exceed expectations and extending what's been a fruitful NFL career.

Will Compton (2013)

Will Compton's made a steady climb up Washington's roster since entering the league as a free agent linebacker out of Nebraska.

He was cut in his first season back in 2013 but latched onto the practice squad. He eventually debuted near the end of 2013, though, and made the 53-man squad the next go-round. 2015 was when he first started playing regularly, then last year he started 15 contests while also serving as a captain.

In 2017, he'll have to compete with Zach Brown and Mason Foster for a starting gig, but he figures to play plenty no matter the outcome and he's one of Jay Gruden's most trusted defenders. Not bad for a guy who has admitted he "wasn't confident" as a rookie:

Houston Bates (2015)

Special teams often is the avenue a college free agent has to take to make a roster, and Houston Bates is an example of one who's been there, done that. He's appeared in 24 games for the Redskins in his first two NFL campaigns and will look to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last December so he can add to that total in year three.

Before that injury, he was Washington's most active special teams player with 292 snaps in 14 contests.

Quinton Dunbar (2015)

Quinton Dunbar has not only overcome being an undrafted free agent; the former Florida Gator has also made the successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback, too.

Like his classmate Bates, Dunbar has participated often in 2015 and 2016, and like Paulsen, his biggest moments have come against the Giants. As a first-year pro, he picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to the delight of a raucous FedExField crowd, and as a sophomore, he helped complete a risky fake punt and also notched another (absolutely insane) INT in New York:

Rob Kelley (2016)

This offseason, Jay Gruden joked that Rob Kelley has worked his way up from "ninth-string" to starter. He laughed as he said it, but it may not have been that big of an exaggeration.

Kelley never rushed for more than 420 yards at Tulane, but he ripped off 704 last year for the 'Skins. Now he's the top option in a talented backfield, and while Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are nipping at his heels for carries, Gruden has repeatedly said how much he loves Kelley. He'll be fed plenty in 2017.

Anthony Lanier (2016)

Anthony Lanier's on this list not for what he's done, but for what he's projected to do. Gruden uses not one but two really's to describe how excited he is about Lanier, and a couple of months of working with assistant Jim Tomsula might be all the lineman needs to make the jump from a project to a problem. 

Maurice Harris (2016)

Last on the list is a receiver who displayed sure hands and a knack for converting third downs in limited action last year. Maurice Harris now looks like he'll be an early option off the bench in Gruden's offense and should see the field far more often than he did in the second half of 2016.

You may not be fully sold on Harris, but it sounds like his teammates are, so don't be surprised if he breaks out and develops into another option for Kirk Cousins:

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 23, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 49 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 18
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 27
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 41

The Redskins by the numbers

5.01—The average yards per carry against the Redskins on first down last year.

I have noted this before but I took a closer look and it’s even worse. In 2016, four running backs—Isaiah Crowell of the Browns, DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers, Jordan Howard of the Bears, and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys—gained over 100 yards against Washington on first down alone. It took Elliott two games to get there but the other three made it in one. If the Redskins don’t get this fixed (this is the second year in a row they have been last in the league here) their defense won’t get much better.

3.85—The Redskins average offensive gain per carry on first down.

This is not a very good performance here — the average is 20th in the NFL. But it does represent a significant improvement from 2015, when they were last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry. One difference was negative plays. Two years ago, they had 63 first-down plays go for no gain or a loss of yards. Last year they had 48 such plays. Rob Kelley, who was fourth-best in the league as a rookie last year at gaining yardage after being contacted behind the line, can claim a lot of credit.

8—The number of opponents’ fumbles the Redskins recovered this year.

A total of 17 other teams recovered more fumbles than the Redskins did last year and their recoveries were exactly half of what they were in 2015, when they had 16, the most in the league. It wasn’t surprising that their recoveries fell. The numbers crunchers say that fumble recoveries aren’t “sticky,” meaning that there tends to be a lot of variance for each team each year. And that makes sense as a lot of recovering fumbles is the bounce of the ball.

But it should be noted that the Redskins forced just 22 fumbles last year after forcing 36 in 2015. You have to get the ball on the ground to recover it and the Redskins could do a better job of forcing fumbles in 2017

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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