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Need to Know: Should the Redskins shift to a run-first philosophy?

Need to Know: Should the Redskins shift to a run-first philosophy?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, April 6, 21 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 11
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 36
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 48
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 148

Should the Redskins shift to a run-first offense?

Good question, Eric. First, let’s look at just how much of a pass-first offense they were in 2016 so we can gauge how much they would have to adjust.

First, let’s establish that “run first” doesn’t mean that you run more than you pass. Last year the Cowboys led the league in rushing attempts with 499 but they called 511 pass plays (attempts + sacks). Most years one or two teams run a few more plays than they pass but if you get to a 55-45 pass-run ration you are predominantly running team compared to the rest of the NFL.

The 2016 Redskins ran 1,009 plays and called 630 passes and ran 379 times. That’s a ratio of 62 percent passes to 38 percent runs.  They would have some work to do to get that 55-45 ratio that would make them a run-first team.

Assuming they run the same number of plays as they did last year, the Redskins would need to change about 55 passes to runs over the course of the year.

That would mean a serious change of philosophy. While I have documented here a few times that Jay Gruden is not nearly as pass happy as his reputation would suggest (most recently right here), he probably isn’t going to switch out 55 passes for runs easily. But if he ends up with a rookie or journeyman quarterback next year he might have to move in that direction.

You don’t need to look any further than Dallas to see how being run-first can help a young quarterback. There is no question that Dak Prescott is talented but he was rarely tested. Only two teams threw less often than the Cowboys and their effective running game helped them move the ball and keep the pressure off Prescott. To take one slice of the season, the Cowboys ran on first down a league-high 290 times. They averaged five yards per carry. The NFL is hard but it’s a lot easier if you’re facing second and five a lot.

The key for the Cowboys, of course, was rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who led the NFL in rushing. The Redskins don’t have a back like him. There are a few backs, namely Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, and Christian McCaffrey, who have that ability. Gruden talked about them at the NFL meetings in Arizona recently and it certainly sounded like he would welcome any of those three players into the Washington backfield.

Getting a true feature back will be the key. will be the key. Rob Kelley is a good running back for a passing offense. He’ll get you some yards while your pass catchers are getting a breather and pick up blitzes when necessary. But he is not suited to be the centerpiece of a run-first offense.

So if the Redskins pull the trigger on McCaffrey or Cooke in the first round (Fournette is likely to be gone) they could begin to work towards a heavier emphasis on the run. I wouldn’t expect it to start right away since they still will be paying Cousins $24 million this year. But if they get a star-quality running back they would be well set up to go into 2018 with Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld, or a rookie or journeyman-type quarterback.

That’s not all they would need to contend for the playoffs going forward, of course, The rebuild of the defense would have to continue with further free agent and draft investments. But you must be able to score and a true feature back is a quarterback’s best friend.

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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Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports declared Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL. Prisco repeatedly points out that while Cousins is a good quarterback, the notion that he should be paid like one of the best passers in the league is what makes him overrated.

From Prisco:

After having six 300-yard-plus passing games in his first 11 games, including two over 400, Cousins had one in the final five games last season as the Redskins pushed for a playoff spot. He had five touchdown passes and five interceptions in those games, going 2-3 as Washington folded. It wasn't all on him, but that's the point. I don't think he's a quarterback who rises above situations when the team isn't going right. I am not going to sit here and pan him as a starter. He has proven to be that, and a pretty good one. It's just that the perception is he's much better than that, which is why he's my most overrated player in the NFL in 2017.

Here's the problem with Prisco's login: Simple market economics. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

An argument can be made Cousins is a Top 10 passer. He's certainly in the top half of the league at the position. Few, if any, would argue Cousins is a Top 5 quarterback, but his contract situation forces him to be paid like he is. Those are the exact terms of the franchise tag, even before the 20 percent increase Washington paid this season to use a second-straight tag.  

Since the Redskins lost their window to sign their single-season passing yards record holder to a team-friendly deal last year, Cousins has leverage and the advantage of inflated QB salaries on his side.

That doesn't mean Cousins is overrated. 

If the threshold for being overrated is money, then Brock Osweiler wins this thing in a landslide. After the 2016 season in Houston, Osweiler seems unlikely to ever again be considered a starting QB in the NFL. He's due to be paid $18 million this fall and his offseason trade to the Browns will go down as the first-ever salary dump in NFL history. 

Is Cousins overpaid? Probably. That's the way contracts work in pro football. 

Is Cousins overrated? Probably not. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards and completed about 68 percent of his passes over the last two seasons. 

There just aren't enough quarterbacks to go around in the NFL, and guys who can play the position get paid handsomely. That doesn't make Cousins overrated. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

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Lucky Whitehead a victim of mistaken identity according to police

lucky-whitehead.jpg

Lucky Whitehead a victim of mistaken identity according to police

It's been a confusing stretch for Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead. 

The charges against the Bealeton, Virginia native have now been dropped, after it was determined by Prince William County Police that Whitehead is not the man accused of shoplifting at a convenience store in Woodbridge, Virginia on June 22.

Here's the full statement released Tuesday:

Upon reviewing the June 22, 2017 arrest of an individual named “Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.”, the police department is confident that the man charged with petit larceny, and who is subsequently being sought on an active warrant for failure to appear in court, is not Lucky Whitehead of the Dallas Cowboys. The man charged on the morning of June 22 was not in possession of identification at the time of the encounter; however, did verbally provide identifying information to officers, which included a name, date of birth, and social security number matching that of Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.

Officers then checked this information through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database.The DMV photo on file was then used to compare to the man who was in custody. Officers acted in good faith that, at the time, the man in custody was the same man matching the information provided. At this point, the police department is also confident in confirming that Mr. Whitehead’s identify was falsely provided to police during the investigation.The police department is currently seeking the identity of the man involved in the incident. Since the identifying information provided by the arrestee during the investigation was apparently false, the police department is working with the Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to clear Mr. Whitehead from this investigation.

The police department regrets the impact these events had on Mr. Whitehead and his family.

 

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Cowboys hadn't officially released Whitehead on Monday, despite reports to the contrary. 

 

Although it's looking like he still may be looking for a new home.

 

RELATED: COWBOYS WR LUCKY WHITEHEAD'S DOG REPORTEDLY HELD FOR RANSOM