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Need to Know: Numbers the 2015 Redskins must improve

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Need to Know: Numbers the 2015 Redskins must improve

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, June 25, 35 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

Earlier this week I looked at some reasons why the Redskins might be better than many think they will be this year. Here are five numbers that will need to improve if that is going to happen.

Rushing attempts—There is some cause and effect here that might be hard to sort out. Just calling more than the 25 runs a game they did last year won’t get it done. They need to be able to run effectively and the defense and special teams will have to do their part and keep games close. If the Redskins are running the ball 30 times per game, that will be a sign that things are going well.

Net passing yards per attempt—This is yards per attempt minus yards lost to sacks. When the quarterbacks could stay upright, the Redskins were pretty efficient passing the ball. They average 8.2 yards per attempt, fourth in the NFL and better than renowned passing teams like the Broncos, Colts, and Saints. But when you factor in sacks the Redskins averaged just 6.7 yards, 12th in the NFL. An improved offensive line will certainly help but backs and tight ends need to do their part in pass protection and the quarterbacks need to get rid of the ball.

Opponent passer rating—Passer rating is far from a perfect way to gauge a pass defense but when it’s as bad as the Redskins’ was last year it means something. Quarterbacks had a field day against the Redskins last year. They compiled a passer rating of 108.3, the worst in the NFL by a healthy margin. To put it in perspective, the average QB that faced the Redskins had a better rating than Ben Roethlisberger 103.3 passer rating) or Peyton Manning (101.5). You can blame the defensive backs if you want and they deserve their share of it but it takes a total team effort to put up numbers that bad.

Third down conversions—This is not any secret to Redskins fans but it’s important to point out that they aren’t that far away from being decent in this category. They would need about one more third-down conversion per game to be average and just a few more per month on top of that to be in the top 10. The best offenses in the NFL fail to convert on third down over half of the time. It's really a matter of timing and converting that third down when you really need it.

Defensive yards per play—They gave up 5.85 yards per play, 27th in the NFL. Washington actually did pretty well on first down, giving up 4.96 yards per play, fourth best in the NFL. But on second down they were 31st yielding 6.47 yards per play and they were 29th on third down, giving up 6.77. To compare, the Seahawks had the best third-down defense, giving up just 4.19 yards per play.

Timeline

—It’s been 179 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 80 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 35; Preseason opener @ Browns 49; final cuts 72

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins RB Thompson still nervous for impending cut down day

Redskins RB Thompson still nervous for impending cut down day

You would think that after spending two years as the team’s third-down back, playing more snaps than any other running back last season, and getting a second-round restricted free agent tender that will pay him $2.7 million this year, Chris Thompson might feel comfortable as the Redskins start up the final phase of their preseason program.

But Thompson says that he is as nervous about making the team as he was when he was a fifth-round in 2013.

“Even after the last preseason game when you guys talk to me I’m going to still be nervous when that time comes around because I never forget that feeling,” he told reporters on Monday prior to the Redskins charity golf tournament at Army-Navy Country Club.

“For me, I’ve just got to come out here and work every day to try to secure my job.”

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

The approach has worked for him in the past. He struggled with injuries his first two years in the league, playing a total of just six games. In 2015 he found his niche as the third-down back and he hasn’t given it up.

In fact, he may get more opportunities on first and second downs.

“I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year,” he said. “He [coach Jay Gruden] knows that I’m healthy and I can stay healthy. I think that was one of his biggest concerns, that I can handle the load. I think I’ll get a lot more opportunities.”

Rob Kelley is expected to be the starter and fourth-round pick Samaje Perine should get a significant number of carries. If Gruden plans on Thompson getting more work on the ground, that likely means that the Redskins anticipate running the ball more ofent than they did in 2016, when they were 27th in the NFL with 379 rushing attempts.

Health is key for Thompson. He not only played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last year, he came out of the season in good health. Not having the need to rehab is allowing Thompson to work on refining his game.

“[Being healthy] helps me to get away and focus on the little things that I need to work on,” he said. “Having a full offseason, being able to get away, I’ve been able to focus on those things. Just like my quickness, my route running. I know my route running is big for me to make it in this league so I work on that. . . that was my main goal.”

Thompson’s work ethic and his mindset where he takes nothing for granted have served him well. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and if he continues to produce he will be setting himself up for a nice payday. 

RELATED: OFFSEASON NFL POWER RANKINGS

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RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

Matt Jones entered the 2016 season as the Redskins undisputed starter at running back.

That lasted seven games.

By Week 8, Jones landed on the inactive list, and he never took another snap all year.

With OTAs beginning for the 2017 season, it looks like Jones might not play with the team. 

NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT?

In April at the NFL Draft, reports surfaced that Washington was trying to trade Jones.

Weeks before that, at the NFL Owner's Meetings in Arizona, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden had to be reminded that Jones was still on the roster as the coach talked about the running back situation for this fall.

Robert Kelley surpassed Jones as the top running back on the team last season with Chris Thompson secure in his third down back role. 

Mack Brown even moved past Jones on the depth chart. When the Redskins drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round, that signaled even bigger trouble for Jones' roster situation.

The Redskins will likely only keep four running backs this fall, and with Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Brown, it sure seems like Jones is the odd man out.

It's remarkable considering Jones has size, speed and an NFL resume that has three 100-yard games on it in just 20 games. The Redskins spent a third-round pick on Jones in 2015, and he largely ousted fan favorite Alfred Morris from the RB1 role as a rookie. 

Life comes at you quick in the NFL.

Jones is a clear example of that. 

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ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back