Quick Links

Need to Know: Is the Redskins' window open?

Need to Know: Is the Redskins' window open?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 12, one day before the Washington Redskins hold their rookie minicamp.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 123 days ago. It will be 123 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener. Welcome to the midway point of the offseason.

Days until: Rookie minicamp 1; OTAs start 12; Redskins training camp starts 78

Hot topic

Is the Redskins Super Bowl window open?

The conventional view is that the window is open if you are a serious contender to get a playoff bye thus able to get yourself into the best position to make a run. The 2016 Redskins may be contenders for the NFC East but that may mean they only need to win nine or 10 games. That won’t get them a bye.

The 2012 Seahawks were a good example of the textbook team that had an open window. They rallied to beat the Redskins in the first round of the playoffs and put a scare into the top-seeded Falcons before losing to them. You could see them coming a mile away and they won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season before losing a stunner to the Patriots the next season.

But you don’t see every Super Bowl team coming. A year ago the Panthers were coming off of a 7-8-1 season. That was good enough to win the NFC South and they did win their wild card playoff game. But nobody saw a window opening in Charlotte until they were in the process of rolling to a 14-0 start. Now that window is wide open.

Perhaps the most interesting question is where the Redskins organization think it is in terms of a window. On the one hand, a move like jumping to sign Josh Norman to a monster free agent contract seems like part of a strategy of a team that thinks it’s not too far from being able to get to the championship game. Then again, they were very patient in the draft, not trading up to fill needs but instead taking the best player available. That’s how a team that is looking at the long haul operates. The mixed signals are difficult to sort out.

So what is the state of the Redskins’ window? Looking at it right now, at the midway point of the offseason, it’s hard to see much of an opening. There are too many questions along the defensive line, at running back, and at safety, among other places, to think that this team has a realistic chance at playing in the Super Bowl in January. Winning a playoff game would be .

But you never know. As we saw with the Panthers, a window can be open just a crack in September but end up wide open when December comes around. I don’t see that happening but then again you rarely do.

Stat of the day

In 2015 the Redskins’ pass defense allowed opposing quarterbacks a passer rating of 96.1, 22nd in the NFL. That’s not where they want to be but their performance was substantially better than it was in 2014. The opponent’s passer rating was 108.3, last in the NFL by a substantial margin (the Bears were 31st at 101.7).

In case you missed it 

 

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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.

In case you missed it

Quick Links

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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.

Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it