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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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2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Quarterback

2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Quarterback

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts on Thursday. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

This series started on defense and you can see all those posts here. On offense we’ve put the wide receivers, running backs, offensive line, and tight ends, under the microscope. Today the focus turns to quarterback.

2016 final game starter: Kirk Cousins

Has started all 32 games in two seasons since he was named the starter. Cousins played every offensive snap last year.

Departures: None

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

Projected 2017 starter: Cousins

Trade talk that was all over the place in February and early March is all but gone. It appears that Cousins will be the starter for 2017. Beyond that it’s anyone’s guess.

2017 reserves: Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld

For a while in 2014, McCoy was ahead of Cousins on Jay Gruden’s depth chart, starting three games over a healthy Cousins. McCoy is under contract through 2018 and it will be interesting to see if he gets another shot at starting if Cousins leaves as a free agent. But for 2017 McCoy will continue his role as an insurance policy.

Sudfeld will find out a lot more about his future in burgundy and gold in the next several days. Former general manager Scot McCloughan was very high on Sudfeld’s potential as a future starter. If others in the building were as convinced as McCloughan was they likely will bypass the position in the draft. Taking a QB, especially somewhere in rounds three or four, would be a sign that they don’t like Sudfeld nearly as much as McCloughan did.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often  

Where can the quarterback position find improvement?

Cousins had another big statistical year, breaking his own team record by passing for nearly 5,000 yards. But he can improve in the red zone, where his completion rate plummeted to 47.5 percent after completing 64.1 percent in 2015. Cousins also saw his third-down completion percentage drop from 69.2 percent in 2015 to 61 percent last year. Not surprisingly, the offense struggled in both areas.   

Locks and bubble players

If no quarterback is drafted all three are locks. If one is taken, Sudfeld should start looking at how he can break his lease.  

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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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: JP & Tandler break down Redskins draft targets, and players to avoid

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: JP & Tandler break down Redskins draft targets, and players to avoid

How plausible is a draft day trade? Could the Redskins move up? And what to do about all those 'diluted samples'? JP Finlay and Rich Tandler break it all down.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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