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Need to Know: Did the Redskins need to run more on third and short?

Need to Know: Did the Redskins need to run more on third and short?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 16, 104 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock for the first round of the NFL draft.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question is from right here in the comments section here on Real Redskins.
In the DAL game i know I saw it because rg3 threw a pick on 3rd & 1 or 4th & 1. But how many times on 3rd & 4 or less did we pass? If u can’t run the ball and get a yard like against DAL you aren’t supposed to win. With all of the qbs struggling and a hb that had 1600 yards a couple seasons back and is healthy why not run? Our 3rd down convo rate was horrible i have to believe someone is going to pull Grudens to the side and say run the ball right?
OK, let’s look at the numbers first. In 2014, on third or fourth with three or four yards to go NFL teams ran the ball 14 percent of the time. The Redskins reflected the league average here, running 14 percent of the time.

Looking at one or two yards to go, we see the Redskins running less often than the league as a whole. The NFL ran 57 percent of the time on third and short while Washington ran just 47 percent in those situations.

They were not very successful when they ran the ball. They ran 20 times on third and one or two and converted 12 times, a conversion rate of 60 percent. The league as a whole converts 68 percent of the time.

But, then again, they weren’t that good passing the ball with a yard or two to go. They converted 11 of 23 times, 48 percent. The league was successful passing on third and short 57 percent of the time.

So, perhaps they should have run the ball more on third and short give that they were more successful doing that. But the thing that strikes me here is that we constantly heard from Jay Gruden, Sean McVay, and others was that the Redskins poor third-down conversion rate was due to them always being in third and long. But they couldn’t get it done in the situations where they did find themselves in third and short, so it really didn’t make that much difference.

Timeline

—It’s been 19 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 240 days until they play another one

Days until: NFL Combine 35; NFL free agency starts 53; 2015 NFL Draft 104

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

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How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

How big a need do the Redskins have at running back?

Do the Redskins have a draft need at running back? It depends on who you ask.

Jay Gruden seems to be very happy with incumbent running back Rob Kelley. Here is what he had to say last month about the second-year back, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, last month:

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden said. “I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Kelley played in 15 games last year and rushed for 704 yards and scored six touchdowns. He started the last nine games and if you project his numbers in this games out over a 16-game season you get about 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s not Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell production but it’s good for a team that is going to rely mostly on the pass.

Gruden also praised third-down back Chris Thompson and backup Mack Brown. In a telling sign, he acknowledged that 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones is still on the roster but he didn’t have much good to say about him.

Why, then, do you see so many draft analysts listing running back as one of the team’s most urgent needs? Mark Maske, who is the Post’s national NFL writer but also a former Redskins beat reporter, has them taking Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey in his mock draft. “There certainly are issues on defense for the Redskins,” writes Maske. But there also is a need at running back.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said that the Redskins “obviously” need a running back as his rationale for mocking Florida State’s Dalvin Cook to Washington at No. 17.

So, what is it? Is Kelley adequate for the Redskins’ needs considering they call pass plays on over 60 percent of their offensive snaps? Would they run more often if they had a back like McCaffrey or Cook? And if they did run more would the offense improve?

I think that running back is like several positions with the Redskins. If they have to get through the 2016 season with what they have they will be OK. But if there is an upgrade on the board when they are on the clock they won’t hesitate to make the pick if he’s the best player available.

We will see what happens if, say, McCaffrey is still on the board when the Redskins pick at No. 17 and top defensive targets like Rueben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board. That will be the true test to see how committed Gruden and the rest of the organization are to Kelley, Thompson, and company. 

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When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

When talent is there, Bruce Allen has looked past red flags in 1st round of NFL Draft

A four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ, Aqib Talib has a long and checkered past, which includes multiple arrests and failed PED and drug tests. The problems aren't new either, the talented cornerback was first arrested as a high school student. In college at Kansas, Talib was suspended multiple times and had multiple positive tests for marijuana use. 

Why does this matter for Redskins fans on the eve of the NFL Draft?

Despite all the trouble, Bruce Allen drafted Talib 20th overall in 2008 when the current Redskins general manager was in the same role for Tampa. While Talib's legal troubles and suspensions continued in the NFL, he also proved to be a highly capable cornerback in the pro game. 

The lesson for those trying to determine the Redskins draft board: Allen might be willing to look past red flags if a player presents good value. Talib did in 2008, and there could be opportunities for Washington in 2017.

Reuben Foster jumps to mind, as the talented Alabama linebacker will enter the league in the substance abuse program. While Foster's issues pale in comparison to other allegations about some draft prospects, players like Joe Mixon, Gareon Conley and Caleb Brantley will also present unique circumstances for NFL teams to evaluate. 

GMs are thrust into the unenviable task of determining a player's character, often in short periods of time. As 'Skins director of college scouting Scott Campbell explained, the team grades every player for their football skills first, and only later adds in character information. From Campbell's comments:

When you start to evaluate guys in the beginning, you don’t factor in the character. You don’t grade character, you grade talent. So you don’t throw away somebody early that may have some redeeming quality, or there’s a side to the story you don’t know about. You grade football players as football players first on talent, and then when it comes closer to the draft, you start weeding all that, getting more information, deciding, ‘OK, this guy’s not our kind of guy, this guy’s not a Redskin, this guy could be drafted, but good luck to him.

Thursday night the Redskins will be forced to make a determination on the right player for the team. That decision could include judging a player's character, and that could mean balancing legal or substance abuse troubles with talent and ability.

Talib is only one pick in Allen's long personnel career, but it's one worth noting. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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