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Need to Know: Is play action a cure for Redskins' and RG3's problems?

Need to Know: Is play action a cure for Redskins' and RG3's problems?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 3, 27 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Play action the cure for what ails them?

The post I wrote here yesterday on third down struggles came from a fairly substantial article by Mike Tanier, who does work for Football Outsiders. The post looked at several different issues with the Redskins’ offense. Among them was play action passing. Let’s take a closer look at that here.

The 2014 Redskins were among the best teams in the league in play action passing. They averaged 10.2 yards per attempt when throwing with a run fake. That was just slightly behind the league-leading Broncos, who averaged 10.3. You don’t have to be a math major to figure out that one such play will yield a first down.

On passes where play action was not used they averaged 5.7 yards per play. The 4.5 yard per play difference between play action and straight dropbacks was the highest in the league.

In particular, Robert Griffin III was very effective in play action. His completion percentage was 71.9 percent and he averaged 13.7 yards per completion. Again, you don’t need much math to tell you that the Redskins moved the ball pretty well when Griffin was putting the ball into Alfred Morris’ belly, pulling it out, and firing downfield.

The problem was that the Redskins only used play action 22 percent of pass plays. That was about the league average. By comparison, the Eagles used it the most, 33 percent, while the Chargers didn’t like it much, using it just eight percent of its pass plays.

The easy thing to insert here is criticism of Jay Gruden’s play calling. While that certainly deserves some scrutiny it must be noted that the Redskins were outscored by an average of 8.6 points per game. Only three teams were outscored by more points. If you just look at the 15 games they played against teams other than the Jacksonville Jaguars, they were outscored by an average of 11.2 points per game. There were plenty of times when teams had no reason to honor the play fake. There is no point in adding some play action to a pass play if it is only window dressing that will have no effect on the defense.

Things could be different this year. The Redskins spend considerable cash and some draft picks to upgrade the defense. If they can keep games closer Gruden may be inclined to call play action more often. If Griffin remains effective throwing the ball off of play action and he does it more often, well, I think you can write the rest of the story. It would end with Griffin looking like the quarterback of the future.

There are plenty of ifs and maybes there so we will have to see.

Timeline

—It’s been 187 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 72 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 27; Preseason opener @ Browns 41; final cuts 64

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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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