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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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Jay Gruden presser recap: Enough is on Chris Thompson's plate already

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USA Today Sports Images

Jay Gruden presser recap: Enough is on Chris Thompson's plate already

Here is a recap of Jay Gruden’s press conference on Wednesday:

—The injuries are covered in a separate post here. Jordan Reed was the only non-participant. Gruden said his status is “wait and see.”

—Gruden doesn’t see them playing Chris Thompson more than they do now. He noted that in addition to being the third-down back he also returns kicks and comes in on second and long plays. “It’s important for us to keep him healthy,” said Gruden. “He’s not a guy that I personally want to give him 30 carries a game.”

RELATED: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS' WIN IN LA

—In a year, Matt Ioannidis has gone from being on the practice squad to being a key member of the defensive line. Gruden was impressed with his play against the Rams. “Against the Rams, he played very well,” he said. “He had pressured the quarterback four or five times, he hawked down Tavon Austin on a jet sweep, which was a big play on the first play of the game. If he gets out of there, it could’ve been a 70-yard touchdown.” Gruden said that work in the weight room with help from fellow DL Ziggy Hood helped in Ioannidis’ transformation.

—Gruden said that the Rams game might have been the best of Jordan Reed's career despite gaining just 48 receiving yards on six catches. “Yeah, Jordan was awesome,” he said. “I thought he had the best all-around game he’s had in a while. I think, not just route-running, but blocking. He was outstanding in blocking. Had a key block on the touchdown Chris Thompson had on the second series of the game, was physical and did a great job.”

MORE REDSKINS: FIRST LOOK AT REDSKINS VS RAIDERS

—The Su’a Cravens situation was dismissed rather quickly. The Redskins will not be adding another safety to the roster. “No, we have Fish [Smithson] already as our fifth guy on the practice squad and he’s doing a good job, so we’re OK at safety spot,” said Gruden. “As far as Su’a’ is concerned, we just have to put it behind us, move forward and let him take care of his personal life and let us take care of this season.”

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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Redskins injury report: Jordan Reed out of practice, six are limited

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Redskins injury report: Jordan Reed out of practice, six are limited

There were a lot of wounded Redskins on the practice field on Wednesday as the team started preparations for their game against the Raiders on Sunday.

One injured player was not on the field. Jordan Reed was out with a chest injury. Obviously, there is concern but Jay Gruden said that it is too early to rule him out of the game.

A half dozen players were limited: RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Montae Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder), OT Morgan Moses (ankle), S Deshazor Everett (knee), and LB Mason Foster (shoulder).

RELATED: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS' WIN IN LA

While none of the injuries seems particularly serious, they still could affect each player’s status for the game.

Foster suffered a separated shoulder during the game, popped it back in, and continued without missing a snap. He said that said that he was letting the athletic trainers handle it. “I’m going in, getting my treatment, doing what they tell me to do,” he said.

Kelley suffered a rib cartilage injury in the second quarter on Sunday. He said that the pain was very high that day but that it has subsided since.

MORE REDSKINS: FIRST LOOK AT REDSKINS VS RAIDERS

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.