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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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A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.

The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis. 

The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.

Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6. 

With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too. 

Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.

NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.

Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.

This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.

This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.

Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on it.

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.