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Need to Know: How much will the 2015 Redskins run?

Need to Know: How much will the 2015 Redskins run?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, August 23, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Baltimore Ravens.

Question of the day

As I wrote about a few days ago, the Redskins plan to rely on the ground game to take as much pressure off of the quarterback, whether it’s Robert Griffin III or someone else, as possible. The idea is to set up more favorable down and distance situations, set up play action passes, and wear down the defense.

In order to move this plan from paper to the field, the Redskins made a number of personnel moves. They bolstered the offensive line with the acquisition of Brandon Scherff with the fifth overall pick. They took running back Matt Jones in the third, hoping that he will be a fresh, powerful set of legs to help out Alfred Morris. To put it all together the Redskins hired Bill Callahan to coach the offensive line and coordinate the running game.

They made some defensive free agent acquisitions as well and you can make the case that improving that side of the ball helps the running game as well. After all, you can’t run the ball consistently if the defense isn’t doing its part to keep the score close enough where the running game can be effective.

After that setup, let’s look at Randy’s question. It’s really two questions. How much can a given NFL team run the ball in the pass-happy league and how many rushing attempts are realistic for the 2015 Washington Redskins?

The most rushing attempts by a team in the last 10 season was 607 by the 2009 New York Jets. Rex Ryan was a rookie head coach and he had rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez behind center. Thomas Jones, 31 years old, led the team in rushing with 331 attempts for 1,402 yards. Also helping to carry the load on the ground were Shonn Greene (108/540) and Leon Washington (72/331).

The plan worked. Sanchez completed just 54 percent of his passes and threw 20 interceptions. But their running game and their defense, ranked first in the NFL in both yards and points allowed, pulled them to a winning record. They pulled off two road upsets in the playoffs before falling to the Colts in the AFC title game.

Their offensive line coach was a guy named Bill Callahan, by the way.

Can the Redskins copy that blueprint? As a point of reference, they ran the ball 401 times last year. So to run as often as the Jets did they would have to increase their rushing attempts by 50 percent. The 2008 Jets ran the ball just 422 times with Brett Favre at quarterback. So it is possible to shift gears to such an extent.

I will be surprised if they don’t end up running the ball around 500 times. I think they would like to approach 600 attempts but I don’t think they will have a good enough defense to be able to do it. The ’09 Jets had a solid unit with Darrelle Revis in his absolute prime at cornerback, and linebackers Thomas Pace and David Harris. They allowed 14.8 points per game making it possible for the Jets to stick with the running attack virtually all game, every game. I think the Redskins will be improved defensively but I don’t see them cutting their 27.4 points per game allowed just about in half.

So I think that 500 rushing attempts is very realistic for this team and 525-550 is possible if the defense really comes together.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:45 a.m.; player availability and Jay Gruden news conference after practice (approx. 1:45)

—It’s been 237 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 19 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Preseason Redskins @ Ravens 4; final cuts 11; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 30

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In case you missed it

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Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

New Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor has been working out with Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown this offseason. 

The pair documented their receiving drills, ladder drills and even yoga on social media. But what you didn't see, according to ESPN's John Keim, is Pryor practicing with special glasses that Brown recommended. 

Based on Brown’s advice, Pryor has also worn special sunglasses during offseason workouts, designed to prevent him from seeing an object – in this case the ball – until it is almost upon him. Sometimes he takes his gloves off, just to get a feel for the ball with his hands.

The glasses Keim describes sound more like blinders, or even tunnel vision, but the idea is to help Pryor get an instinctive feel for running routes. 

Despite putting up 1,007 receiving yards with the Browns last year, Pryor has only played the position since 2015. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent trying to make a roster playing quarterback. 

Now penciled into a starting receiver role for the Redskins, he knows he has a lot of catching up to do. 

"The good ones, they ask questions and never think they’ve got it. They always want to learn," Pryor said, "I’m not calling myself a great one, but I think I can get there."

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins Playbook: Some good news for Kirk Cousins

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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